FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by

FINAL DECISION

Juan Arriola,

 

 

Complainants

 

 

against

 

Docket #FIC 1998-219

Patrick Proctor, Superintendent of Schools, Windham Public Schools; Dan Switchenko,

John Adamo, Manual Diaz, Mark Doyle, Susan Collins, Paulette Haines, Paula Haney,

Lynne Weeks, and Ben Vreeland as members of the Board of Education, Windham Public Schools; and Board of Education, Windham Public Schools,

 

 

Respondents

June 9, 1999

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 22, 1998, and December 1, 1998, at which time the complainant and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  For purposes of hearing, this case was consolidated with the following dockets #s: FIC1998-215, Juan Arriola v. Windham Board of Education, Windham Public Schools; FIC1998-229, Juan Arriola v. Patrick Proctor, Superintendent of Schools, Windham Public Schools; Dan Switchenko, John Adamo, Manual Diaz, Mark Doyle, Susan Collins, Paulette Haines, Paula Haney, Lynne Weeks, and Ben Vreeland as members of the Board of Education, Windham Public Schools; and Board of Education, Windham Public Schools; FIC1998-300, Juan Arriola v. Susan M. Collins, Chairman, Board of Education, Windham Public Schools, Dan Switchenko, John Adamo, Manuel Diaz, Jr., Mark Doyle, Paulette N. Haines Paula Haney, Lynne P. Weeks, Benjamin S. Vreeland, as members of the Board of Education, Windham Public Schools; and Board of Education, Windham Public Schools.

 

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

 

2.     By letter dated June 26, 1998, the complainant made a request to the respondent board for a “copy of the summary notes from April 14, 1997 to April 28, 1997, which concluded the investigation of the sexual harassment complaint filed against Juan Arriola and which were used in the decision not to renew his contract and to permanently suspend him from his position at North Windham School.”

 

3.     By letter dated July 23, 1998 and filed on July 27, 1998, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to respond to and comply with his request.  The complainant also requested the imposition of a civil penalty against the respondents.

 

4.     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, 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 a right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provision of section 1-212.

 

5.   Section 1-212(a), G.S. [formerly 1-15(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part that:

 

[a]ny person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.

 

6.   It is found that to the extent records responsive to the complainant’s request exist, such records are public records within the meaning of 1-210(a), G.S. [1-19(a), G.S.].

 

7.     It is found that the complainant has made numerous requests to the respondents for either the same or very similar records as those requested on June 26, 1998, pertaining to his employment with the Windham Public Schools and the sexual harassment complaint filed against him.

 

8.     It is found that on May 18, 1998, the complainant, pursuant to a previous records request, met with the respondents’ counsel at his office and inspected all records pertaining to his employment with the Windham Public Schools including those pertaining to the sexual harassment complaint filed against him and the investigation of such complaint.

 

9.     It is further found that the meeting described in paragraph 7, above, lasted for more than an hour and that during the meeting, the complainant requested and received copies of forty-five pages of records, free of charge.

 

10. It is therefore found that the complainant has either inspected or received copies of all records responsive to his request described in paragraph 2, above, and that the respondents do not maintain any other records responsive to that request.

 

11. It is therefore concluded that the respondents did not violate the provisions of 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-19(a), G.S.], under the facts and circumstances of this case.  Therefore, the imposition of a civil penalty is not appropriate in this case.

 

12. At the hearing in this matter, the respondents requested that this Commission impose a civil penalty against the complainant on the grounds that the complainant has taken this appeal frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the respondent.

 

13. Section 1-206(b)(2), G.S. [formerly 1-21i(b)(2), G.S.], provides in relevant part that:

 

[i]f the commission finds that a person has taken an appeal . . . frivolously, without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the agency from which the appeal has been taken, after such person has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing . . . the commission may, in its discretion, impose against that person a civil penalty of not less than twenty dollars nor more than one thousand dollars . . . .

 

            14. It is found that prior to the filing of this complaint, the complainant previously requested and received copies of summary notes of interviews conducted by the respondent superintendent during the investigation of the sexual harassment complaint referred to in paragraph 2, above, which investigation concluded on April 14, 1998, according to the respondents. 

 

      15. It is further found that the complainant subsequently received copies of records that reasonably lead him to believe that the investigation did not end until April 28, 1998 and further, that the respondent superintendent might have conducted interviews and generated summary notes during the period between April 14, 1997 and April 28, 1997.

 

            16. It is there found that the complainant did not take this appeal frivolously without reasonable grounds and solely for the purpose of harassing the respondents within the meaning of 1-206(2), G.S. [formerly 1-21i(b)(2), G.S.].

      17.  Therefore, based upon the findings in paragraph 15, above, the imposition of a civil penalty against the complainant is not appropriate in this 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 the complainant’s representation at the hearing on this matter that he would not file any other FOI complaints against the above-captioned respondents pertaining to records generated in connection with the sexual harassment complaint filed against him or the investigation which followed. 

 

 

 

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

June 9, 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:

 

 

Juan Arriola

PO Box 218

Windham, CT  06280

 

Patrick Proctor,

Superintendent of Schools,

Windham Public Schools;

Dan Switchenko, John Adamo,

Manual Diaz, Mark Doyle,

Susan Collins, Paulette Haines,

Paula Haney, Lynne Weeks,

and Ben Vreeland as members

of the Board of Education,

Windham Public Schools;

and Board of Education,

Windham Public Schools

c/o Atty. Thomas B. Mooney

and Atty. Kimberly A. Mango

Shipman & Goodwin, LLP

One American Row

Hartford, CT  06103-2819

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1998-219FD/mrb/06111999