FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Virginia Groark and The Day,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC1998-325
Freedom of Information Officer, State of Connecticut,
Department of Public Health, Office of Special Services,
Communications Division; and Agency Personnel
Administrator, State of Connecticut, Department of
Public Health, Human Resources Division,
Respondents April 28, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on December 15, 1998, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts 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 1-200(1), G.S.

[formerly 1-18a(1), G.S.]

        2. By letter dated August 18, 1998, the complainants requested that the respondents provide them with copies of the respondents’ findings with respect to their investigation of William Sawicki and his relationship with James Butler, as well as the report related to such investigation which was compiled by a private investigator.

        3. By letter dated August 20, 1998, the respondents replied to the complainants, acknowledging receipt of the request described in paragraph 2, above, and informing them that such request was being reviewed for a determination as to whether the requested records were exempt from disclosure in whole or in part.

        4. By letter dated September 21, 1998, the respondents notified William Sawicki of the request described in paragraph 2, above, and informed him that the requested records would be disclosed to the complainants unless the respondents received a written objection from him within seven business days. It is further found that Mr. Sawicki provided such written objection to the respondents on September 29, 1998.

        5. By letter dated October 7, 1998, the respondents informed the complainants of their receipt of the written objection described in paragraph 4, above. The respondents also informed the complainants that they were therefore unable to provide the records described in paragraph 2, above.

        6. By letter dated October 13, 1998 and filed October 15, 1998, the complainants appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by the denial described in paragraph 5, above.

        7. It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.]

        8. Section 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 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…."

        9. The respondents submitted the requested records to the Commission for in-camera inspection, which records have been identified as in-camera document #s: 1998-325-1 through 1998-325-25.

        10. The respondents contend that the majority of the requested records are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(2) and 1-214(c), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(2) and 1-20a(c), G.S.]

        11. Section 1-214(c), G.S. [formerly 1-20a(c), G.S.], in relevant part states:

[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…within seven business days from the receipt by the employee…. 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….

        12. Section 1-214(b), G.S. [formerly 1-20a(b), G.S.], in relevant part states:

[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.

        13. It is found that the objection described in paragraph 4, above, is a written objection within the meaning of 1-214, G.S. [formerly 1-20a, G.S.]

        14. Section 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.], in relevant part provides for the nondisclosure of "personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."

        15. The Supreme Court set forth the test for the 1-210(b)(2), G.S., [formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.], exemption in Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission, 228 Conn. 158, 175 (1993). Specifically, 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.

        16. It is found that the requested records are "similar" files within the meaning of 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.] See Hartford v. Freedom of Information Commission, 201 Conn. 421, 433 (1986).

        17. Upon careful review of the in-camera documents described in paragraph 9, above, it is found that, except as noted in paragraph 20, below, while release of portions of the records may be highly offensive to a reasonable person, such records pertain to legitimate matters of public concern.

        18. It is therefore concluded that, with the exception of the records specifically identified as exempt in paragraph 20, below, the denial described in paragraph 5, above, was "a denial of [a] right conferred by the [FOI] Act", as that term is utilized in 1-206, G.S. [formerly 1-21i, G.S.]

        19. It is found that, under the facts of this case, there is no legitimate public interest in disclosure of personal account numbers and social security numbers, and it is further found that such disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person.

        20. Accordingly, it is concluded that the following records are exempt from mandatory disclosure by virtue of 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.], and that the respondents did not violate 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], by denying the complainants copies of such records:

: in-camera document #: 1998-325-12, line 49;
: in-camera document #: 1998-325-16, line 15;
: in-camera document #: 1998-325-17, line 6;
: in-camera document #: 1998-325-18, line 18;
: in-camera document #: 1998-325-18, line 21;
: in-camera document #: 1998-325-19, line 15.
 

        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 copies of the records described in paragraph 2 of the findings, above.

        2. In complying with paragraph 1 of the order, the respondents may redact the records more fully described in paragraph 20 of the findings, above.

 

 

        Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of April 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:

 

Virginia Groark and The Day
PO Box 1231
New London, CT 06320-1231
Freedom of Information Officer,
State of Connecticut, Department
of Public Health, Office of Special
Services, Communications Division;
and Agency Personnel Administrator,
State of Connecticut, Department
of Public Health, Human Resources
Division
c/o Atty. Phyllis E. Hyman
Assistant Attorney General
PO Box 120
Hartford, CT 06141-0120

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-325FD/mrb04301999