FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Paul Lewis and Fox 61 News,|
|against||Docket #FIC 1998-231|
City of Willimantic; and Police
Department, City of Willimantic,
|Respondents||December 9, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 1, 1998, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. For purposes of hearing, this case was consolidated with Docket #FIC 1998-226; Trenton Wright, Jr. against Chief, Police Department, City of Willimantic; and Police Department, City of Willimantic; Docket #FIC 1998-230; Mark Reynolds and the Norwich Bulletin v. Chief, Police Department, City of Willimantic; and Police Department, City of Willimantic; and Docket #FIC 1998-248; Trenton Wright, Jr. against Chief of Police, Police Department, City of Willimantic; and Police Department , City of Willimantic.
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(1), G.S.
2. It is found that, on August 13, 1998, an eleven year old child was reported missing to the respondent department. It is further found that, as a result of the fact that such child was missing, many of the childs relatives, friends and neighbors, as well as many people in the surrounding community, were distraught.
3. It is found that the major crimes unit of the state police was called in on the case in its early stages.
4. It is found that, in the early morning hours of August 14, 1998, the missing child was discovered, the apparent victim of a homicide.
5. It is found that alarm arose in the community when the crime was announced shortly thereafter. Specifically, it is found that members of said community were fearful for their children and enraged at the unknown perpetrator of such crime. It is further found that verbal threats were made against the life of such perpetrator in the presence of police officers.
6. It is further found that, as a result of the alarm described in paragraph 5, above, the respondent chief was concerned about the possibility of vigilantism and interference with the murder investigation.
7. It is found that, on August 14, 1998, and for several days thereafter, the complainants verbally requested that the respondents provide them with access to the Megans Law list (hereinafter the list).
8. At all times relevant to this appeal, Megans Law, §54-102r, G.S., required the registration of persons convicted of certain sexual assault crimes with the local chief of police or resident state trooper for the municipality in which such persons reside. Such registration included the following information regarding each registrant: name, including all aliases used, address, social security number, inmate number, crime for which convicted or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, date and place of conviction or finding of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, probation termination date or sentence termination date or date of termination of commitment to the Psychiatric Security Review Board, as the case may be, and a complete description of the person including photograph and fingerprints.
9. It is found that the respondents maintained a registration record as required by Megans Law, and as described in paragraph 8, above, and that such record is the list requested by the complainants as described in paragraph 7, above. It is further found that the list is a public record within the meaning of §1-19(a), G.S.
10. Section 1-19(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that [e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency 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 .
11. It is found that, in conjunction with the state police and states attorneys office, the respondents denied the complainants access to the list.
12. Having been denied access to the list, the complainants appealed to the Commission by letter dated and filed August 24, 1998, alleging that the respondents thereby violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
13. The respondents contend that §1-19(b)(3), G.S., exempted the list from disclosure at the time such list was denied to the complainants.
14. Section 1-19(b)(3), G.S., does not apply since this list was developed prior to the incident and was independent of the police investigation.
15. It is further concluded that the respondents did violate §1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainant access to the list at the time of his request.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. Henceforth, the respondents shall comply with the Freedom of Information Act provisions.
2. No civil penalties will be imposed.
3. The Commission notes that the respondents were under tremendous pressure to secure an arrest of the perpetrator, that they acted in good faith in this matter, and that they provided access to the list within hours of the arrest.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of December 9, 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:
Paul Lewis and Fox 61 News One Corporate Center Hartford, CT 06103
Chief, Police Department, City of Willimantic; and Police Department, City of Willimantic c/o Atty. Richard S. Cody 21 Main Street, PO Box 425 Mystic, CT 06355
__________________________ Melanie R. Balfour Acting Clerk of the Commission