FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Warren Woodberry, Jr. and
The Hartford Courant,
Complainants
against Docket #FIC 1999-135
Acting Town Manager, Town of Rocky
Hill and Town of Rocky Hill,
Respondents July 14, 1999

        The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on May 6, 1999, at which time the complainants and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. At the hearing on this matter, Holly Maurice, the subject of the record at issue, requested and was granted party status.

        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. On March 5, 1999, the complainant Woodberry orally requested from the respondent town manager "a copy of a February 17, 1999 letter given to town manager administrative assistant Holly Maurice who on that day took leave from the town." The respondent town manager denied the request at that time and indicated that she would have to check with the town attorney concerning disclosure of the subject letter.

        3. Having failed to receive a copy of the subject letter, the complainants appealed to the Commission by undated letter filed on March 18, 1999.

        4. It is found that sometime subsequent to the request described in paragraph 2, above, the respondent town manager informed Ms. Maurice’s attorney of the complainants’ request and inquired whether she objected to disclosure of the subject letter.

        5. It is found that by letter dated March 19, 1999, Ms. Maurice informed the respondent town manager that she objected to disclosure of the subject letter and asked the respondents not to release it unless they were ordered to do so by the Commission. Thereafter, the respondent town manager informed the complainants of Ms. Maurice’s objection.

        6. It is found that the subject letter was prepared by the respondent town manager and concerns an alleged incident related to Ms. Maurice’s duties as the respondent town manager’s administrative assistant. Ms. Maurice left her position as administrative assistant to the respondent town manager on or about March 5, 1999.

        7. It is found that the subject letter is a public record within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a) [formerly 1-18a(5) and 1-19(a), G.S.].

        8. The respondents and Ms. Maurice contend that the subject letter is exempt from disclosure because disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and because the subject letter does not pertain to a legitimate matter of public concern. The respondents and Ms. Maurice claim in support of their contentions, that the subject letter documents a personnel matter that was between the respondent town manager and Ms. Maurice that had not been investigated and that disclosure could be detrimental to Ms. Maurice’s future employment.

        9. Section 1-212(a), G.S. [formerly 1-15(a), G.S.], provides in relevant part, that "any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record."

        10. However, 1-210(b)(2), G.S.[formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.], provides that "[nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of . . . (2) [p]ersonnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy."

        11. 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.

        12. At the conclusion of the hearing on this matter, the respondents submitted the subject letter for in camera inspection by the Commission.

        13. It is found that the subject letter constitutes a personnel or similar file record within the meaning of 1-210(b)(2), G.S.[formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.].

        14. It is further found that the subject letter pertains to a legitimate matter of public concern insofar as it documents an allegation related to the performance of Ms. Maurice’s duties as a public employee.

        15. It is further found that disclosure of the subject letter 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.], because it does not contain the kind of intimate details of a person’s life (e.g., sexual relations, family quarrels, disgraceful or humiliating illnesses) that are normally private matters, as articulated in Perkins, supra, at 173.

        16. It is therefore concluded that the subject letter is not exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(2), G.S. [formerly 1-19(b)(2), G.S.].

        17. It is further concluded that the letter is subject to disclosure pursuant to 1-212(a) and 1-210(a), G.S. [formerly 1-15(a) and 1-19(a), G.S.], and that the respondents’ decision not to provide the complainants with a copy of such letter constituted a "denial of [a] right conferred by the Freedom of Information Act," within the meaning of 1-206(a), G.S. [formerly 1-21i, G.S.].

        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 subject letter, described more fully in paragraph 2, of the findings, above.

 

 

 

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

July 14, 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:

 

Warren Woodberry, Jr. and
The Hartford Courant
40 South Street
New Britain, CT 06051
Acting Town Manager,
Town of Rocky Hill and
Town of Rocky Hill
c/o Atty. George J. Kelly, Jr.
Siegel, O’Connor, Schiff &
Zangari, PC
150 Trumbull Street
Hartford, CT 06103
and
Holly Maurice
c/o Atty. Jeffrey J. Mirman
Levy & Droney, PC
74 Batterson Park Road
PO Box 887
Farmington, CT 06034
 

 

 

__________________________

Melanie R. Balfour

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC1999-135D/mrb/07191999