FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Scott Clark, Amy
Kertesz, Michael Gates
and the Ridgefield Police Union,
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-232|
|First Selectman, Town of
and Town of Ridgefield,
|Respondents||November 18, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 28 and November 2, 1998 at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Sixteen town of Ridgefield employees whose performance appraisals are at issue object to disclosure of such records. The objecting employees were granted party status pursuant to §1-21i(b)(2), G.S. They are: Charles Fisher, Gary Boughton, Edward Briggs, H. Barbara Hock, Marjorie Tippet, Mary Brosius, Richard Baldell, Oswald Inglese, Dana Moody, Mary Ann Baldwin, Carole Konner, Jerry Gay, R. John Mannuzza, Jay Wahlberg, Jeanne Hoffman and Francis Oldham.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondent first selectman is a public agency within the meaning of §1- 18a(1), G.S.
2. It is found that by letter dated July 9, 1998, the complainants requested that the respondent first selectman provide them with the following records:
a. a list of all non-union town employees and their most current performance appraisals; andb. the performance appraisals for the above employees for fiscal years 1993, 94, 95, 96 and 97.
3. It is found that by letter dated July 13, 1998, the town of Ridgefields (town) personnel director denied the request claiming that disclosure of the requested performance appraisals would reasonably constitute an invasion of the employees privacy under §1-20a, G.S.
4. Having failed to receive the requested records the complainants, by letter dated August 7, 1998 and filed on August 10, 1998 appealed to the Commission alleging that the respondent denied them a copy of the requested records.
5. It is found that the records at issue are town employee personnel appraisals or evaluations, which records are maintained by the towns personnel director.
6. Section 1-18a(5), G.S., provides that: [p]ublic records or files" means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
7. Section 1-19(a), G.S., further provides that:
Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-15. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void.
8. It is concluded that the appraisals/evaluations at issue are public records within the meaning of §§1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.
9. Some town employees whose appraisals/evaluations are at issue do not object to the disclosure of such information. Consequently, pursuant to §1-20a(c), G.S., the respondents are required to disclose the appraisals/evaluations of those employees who do not object to disclosure, after having provided such employees with an opportunity to object to the release of such information.
10. It is found that at present only the sixteen employees, named herein, object to the release of their appraisals/evaluations.
11. The respondent and the sixteen employees who object to disclosure of the appraisals/evaluations contend that §1-19(b)(2), G.S., exempts such evaluations from disclosure.
12. Section 1-19(b)(2), G.S., permits nondisclosure of [p]ersonnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
13. Pursuant to Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission, 228 Conn. 158 (1993) , the appropriate test when examining a claim of exemption under §1-19(b)(2), G.S., is as follows, first the information sought must constitute personnel or medical files and similar files and second, two elements must be met: the information sought does not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern, and such information is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
14. The respondent provided the Commission with the appraisals/evaluations of the sixteen employees who object to disclosure as well as the evaluations of employees who do not object to disclosure. All the evaluations received by the Commission were reviewed in camera.
15. It is found that the evaluations constitute personnel files within the meaning of §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
16. It is also found that the evaluations pertain to legitimate matters of public concern.
17. It is further found that nothing contained in the evaluations if disclosed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.
18. It is therefore, concluded that the evaluations are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to §1-19(b)(2), G.S.
19. It is also found that the respondents failure to comply with the Commissions August 31, 1998 order to notify the town employees of the September 28, 1998 in this matter is attributable to the towns legal counsel. Such failure necessitated a delay in this Commissions proceedings and required the convening of a further hearing on November 2, 1998.
20. The Commission in its discretion, however, does not deem a civil penalty warranted in this case.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Forthwith, the respondents shall provide the complainants with a copy of the personnel evaluations of the non-union employees, responsive to the complainants request as described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.
2. With respect to the evaluations of those employees who do not object to disclosure, and as described in paragraph 9 of the findings, above, the respondents had no justification for their failure to promptly provide the complainants with a copy of such evaluations.
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:
Scott Clark, Amy Kertesz, Michael Gates and the Ridgefield Police Union c/o Atty. Susan E. Craig 61 Lee Road Ridgefield, CT 06877
First Selectman, Town of Ridgefield,and Town of Ridgefield c/o Atty. Allen Kerr, Jr. Office of the Town Attorney 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Charles R. Fisher 66 Prospect Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Gary Boughton 66 Prospect Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Edward L. Briggs 66 Prospect Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and H. Barbara Hock 66 Prospect Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Marjorie Tippet 66 Prospect Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and
Oswald Inglese 66 Prospect Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Dana Moody 38 Bob Hill Road Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Mary Ann Baldwin 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Carole Konner 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Jerry Gay 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and John Mannuzza 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Jay Wahlberg 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Jeanne Hofmann 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Francis Oldham 400 Main Street Ridgefield, CT 06877 and Mary C. Brosius 460 Milltown Road Brewster, NY 10509 and Richard S. Baldell 32 Stony Hill Village Brookfield, CT 06804
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission