FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|Robert H. Boone and Journal Inquirer,|
|against||Docket #FIC 1999-144|
|William Gifford, Chief, Police Department,
Town of Windsor Locks; Police Department,
Town of Windsor Locks; and Windsor Locks
|Respondents||July 28, 1999|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 18, 1999, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. Upon complainants motion, and without objection, the Windsor Locks Police Commission was added as a respondent and was represented by counsel at the hearing; the case caption has been amended to reflect the addition of such party. For purposes of hearing, this case was consolidated with docket #FIC1999-096; Paul Marks and The Hartford Courant v. Chief, Police Department, Town of Windsor Locks; and Police Department, Town of Windsor Locks.
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 § 1-200(1), G.S. [formerly § 1-18a(1), G.S.].
2. It is found that, beginning on February 4, 1999, the complainants orally requested that the respondents provide them with a copy of the internal affairs investigation report on Officer David Clark (hereinafter "the report"). It is further found that such request was repeated several times thereafter.
3. By letter dated February 23, 1999, the respondents informed the complainants that they had notified two officers of the request described in paragraph 2, above, that the respondents had received an objection to release of the report, and that, accordingly, the respondents were prohibited from releasing the report.
4. By letter dated March 18, 1999, and filed March 22, 1999, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI") Act by denying them a copy of the report. The complainants requested the imposition of civil penalties in this matter.
5. It is found that the report is a public record within the meaning of § 1-200(1), G.S. [formerly § 1-18a(1), G.S.]
6. Section 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly § 1-19(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part:
[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 receive a copy of such records ."
7. The respondents contend that § § 1-214(b) and (c), G.S. [formerly § § 1-20a(b) and (c), G.S.], prohibit them from releasing the report until ordered to do so by the Commission.
8. Section 1-214(b), G.S. [formerly § 1-20a(b), G.S.], provides in relevant part:
[w]henever a public agency receives a request to inspect or
copy records contained in any of its employees' personnel or
medical files and similar files and the agency reasonably
believes that the disclosure of such records would legally
constitute an invasion of privacy, the agency shall immediately
notify in writing each employee concerned .Nothing herein
shall require an agency to withhold from disclosure the contents
of personnel or medical files and similar files when it does not
reasonably believe that such disclosure would legally constitute
an invasion of personal privacy.
9. Section 1-214(c), G.S. [formerly § 1-20a(c), G.S.], provides in relevant part:
[a] public agency which has provided notice under subsection
(b) of this section shall disclose the records requested unless
it receives a written objection from the employee concerned
or the employee's collective bargaining representative, if any,
within seven business days from the receipt by the employee
or such collective bargaining representative of the notice or,
if there is no evidence of receipt of written notice, not later
than nine business days from the date the notice is actually
mailed, sent, posted or otherwise given. Each objection filed
under this subsection shall be on a form prescribed by the
public agency, which shall consist of a statement to be
signed by the employee or the employee's collective
bargaining representative, under the penalties of false
statement, that to the best of his knowledge, information
and belief there is good ground to support it and that the
objection is not interposed for delay. Upon the filing of
an objection as provided in this subsection, the agency
shall not disclose the requested records unless ordered
to do so by the [FOI] Commission pursuant to section
1-206. Failure to comply with a request to inspect or
copy records under this section shall constitute a denial
for the purposes of section 1-206 ..
10. It is found that, upon receipt of the request described in paragraph 2, above, the respondents immediately notified two officers referenced in the report of such request and that such officers timely objected in writing to the release of the report.
11. The Commission takes administrative notice of the Order to Show Cause in this matter, whereby the respondents were ordered to notify objecting employees of the date and time of the hearing in this matter. It is further found that the respondents complied with such order and that neither of the objecting employees described in paragraph 10, above, appeared at the hearing in this matter, nor did they move to intervene in the proceedings.
12. Section 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly § 1-19(b)(2), G.S.], permits the nondisclosure of "personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."
13. It is found that the report is located in a personnel or medical and similar file within the meaning of § 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly § 1-19(b)(2), G.S.]
14. In Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission, 228 Conn. 158, 175 (1993), the Supreme Court set forth the test for the exemption contained in § 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly § 1-19(b)(2), G.S.] The claimant must first establish that the files in question are personnel, medical or similar files. Second, the claimant must show that disclosure of the records would constitute an invasion of personal privacy. In determining whether disclosure would constitute an invasion of personal privacy, the claimant must establish both of two elements: first, that the information sought does not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern, and second, that such information is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
15. It is found that the report was generated by the respondent department following an internal investigation into the receipt of workers compensation by Officer Clark.
16. It is found that the State of Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission issued findings with respect to Officer Clarks claim on February 2, 1999, and that such findings are readily available for public inspection or copying at such public agency.
17. It is found that the report pertains to legitimate matters of public concern and that the information contained therein if disclosed would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person within the meaning of § 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly § 1-19(b)(2), G.S.].
18. It is therefore concluded that the respondents belief that disclosure of the report would legally constitute an invasion of privacy was not reasonable within the meaning of § 1-214(b), G.S. [formerly § 1-20a(b), G.S.]
19. It is also concluded that the report is not exempt from disclosure, and that the respondents failure to provide the complainants with a copy of the report violated § 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly § 1-19(a), G.S.]
20. The Commission declines to impose a civil penalty in this matter.
The following order by the Commission is
hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The respondents shall forthwith provide the complainants with a copy of the report.
2. Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the provisions of § § 1-210(a) [formerly § 1-19(a)] and 1-214(b), G.S. [formerly § 1-20a(b), G.S.]
3. In the event that subsequent complaints of a similar nature are filed against the respondents, the Commission shall take administrative notice of the findings and conclusions in this matter in consideration of the imposition of civil penalties in such complaints.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of
July 28, 1999.
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:
Robert H. Boone and Journal Inquirer
PO Box 510
Manchester, CT 06045-0510
William Gifford, Chief,
Town of Windsor Locks;
Town of Windsor Locks;
and Windsor Locks
c/o Atty. Kevin M. Deneen
PO Box 504
Windsor, CT 06095
Melanie R. Balfour
Acting Clerk of the Commission