FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Tracy Arthur Marlow,|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-052|
|Kristen Greene, State of
Department of Children and Families;
and State of Connecticut, Department
of Children and Families,
|Respondents||November 18, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on June 5 and September 10, 1998, at which times the complainant and the respondents appeared and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(a), G.S.
2. By letter dated February 6, 1998, the complainant requested that the respondents provide him with all records related to any investigation conducted by your department of me and my family (the requested records or records).
3. By letter dated February 19, 1998 and filed on February 23, 1998, the complainant appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to respond to his request set forth at paragraph 2, above.
4. By letter dated February 25, 1998, the respondent department stated that the complainant would be furnished with a copy of the requested records at the conclusion of the investigation.
5. By certified letter mailed on April 3, 1998, the respondent department furnished the complainant with a copy of the investigation file related to the complainant, with certain of the records redacted.
6. By letter dated June 23, 1998, pursuant to an agreement entered into at the June 5, 1998 hearing, the respondent department provided further requested records to the complainant, namely all records recorded on paper from the respondent departments Hotline office. The respondent department also stated that, based on its policy, it declined to provide the complainant with an audio tape that was within the terms of the original request (while noting that a record memorializing the relevant audio tape had been provided to the complainant).
7. On July 1, 1998, the respondent department, also pursuant to an agreement entered into at the June 5, 1998 hearing, filed an unredacted copy of the requested records with the Commission for an in camera inspection which has now been performed.
8. At the June 5, 1998 hearing and in briefs dated July 20 and September 17, 1998, the respondents contend that pursuant to the exception clause of §1-19(a), G.S., the Commission is without jurisdiction with reference to records of the respondent department based upon the provisions of §17a-28, G.S. In the June 5, 1998 brief, the respondents cite various Commission decisions in support of their contention.
9. It is found that the only records at issue at the present time include records provided with redactions that are contested by the complainant, printouts of three computer screens where the first page was provided but the scrolling feature indicated the existence of subsequent pages which have not been provided, and the audio tape from the departments Hotline office (concerning which the complainant has a record memorializing the relevant audio tape).
10. It is concluded that §17a-28, G.S., is not a model of clarity with reference to its relationship to the FOIA. However, notwithstanding the single reference to [i]n addition to the right of access provided in section 1-19 at §17a-28(l), G.S., the provisions of §17a-28, G.S., generally, and even the one subsection at §17a-28(l), G.S., set forth such a comprehensive, specific system of records management that the FOIA system of rights could not be superimposed in addition to the §17a-28, G.S., rights without creating a hopeless morass of confusion and contradiction. (See also the first sentence of §17a-28(b), G.S., stating that the records of the respondent department shall be confidential notwithstanding the FOIA).
11. It is therefore concluded, following long-standing and frequently affirmed Commission precedent, that §17a-28, G.S., creates separate rights of access to the respondents records than those set forth in §1-19, G.S. It is further concluded that, with reference to the respondent department, the more specific §17a-28, G.S., set of records management rules occupies the field and exclusively controls (rather than the more general FOIA rules).
12. Finally, it is concluded that the Commission is generally without jurisdiction to enforce rights of access created by statutes other than the FOIA, and also that the Commission is specifically without jurisdiction to issue a ruling on the request for access to the records in the present case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
2. The Commission notes that the respondents have been most cooperative with the Commission given the provisions of §17a-28, G.S.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its special meeting of November 18, 1998.
_________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Tracy Arthur Marlow 600 Hollow Tree Ridge Road Darien, CT 06820-2420
Kristen Greene, State of Connecticut, Department of Children and Families; and State of Connecticut, Depart- ment of Children and Families c/o Atty. Sonia S. Stoloff Assistant Attorney General 110 Sherman Street Hartford, CT 06105-2294
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission