FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Diane Struzzi and The Hartford Courant,  
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2005-019

Commissioner, Department of Correction,

State of Connecticut,

 
  Respondent May 11, 2005
       

 

            The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on January 13, 2005 and continued on January 19, 2005 and February 15, 2005, at which times the complainants and the respondent appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.  At the hearing held on January 13, 2005, the complainant’s January 13, 2005 motion to consolidate an additional complaint dated and filed by the complainant on January 12, 2005, was granted.  For purposes of hearing, therefore, the above-captioned matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2004-578; Diane Struzzi and The Hartford Courant v. Commissioner, Department of Correction, State of Connecticut.

 

            After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:

 

            1.  The respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

            2.  The complainants requested an expedited hearing in this matter, and the Commission granted that request pursuant to 1-206(b)(1), G.S., and 1-21j-29(b) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.

 

            3.  By letter dated December 16, 2004, the complainants posed certain questions and requested certain information concerning what was understood to be the scheduled execution of Michael Ross.  More specifically, the complainants requested the following information:

 

a.  The identities of the outside providers participating in the Ross execution;

 

b.  The functions of such outside providers;

 

c.  A copy of the contracts with such outside providers;

 

d.  All correspondence, e-mails and telephone messages with such outside providers;

 

e.  The amount of money the state is paying such outside providers;

 

f.  The authority under which the state is contracting with such outside providers;

 

g.  The identity of the Connecticut licensed and practicing physician who certified that the executioner was trained to his or her satisfaction; and

 

h.  The identity of the person inserting the intravenous catheter(s) and the qualifications that such person is required to possess.

 

            4.  By letter dated December 21, 2004, the Department of Correction (“DOC”) responded to the complainants’ December 16, 2004 request:

 

a.       providing the legal authority references as described in paragraph 3(f), above;

 

b.      stating that there is no specific budget for the execution in question and consequently the response to the request described in paragraph 3(e), above, and therefore the actual costs, cannot be determined until after the execution; and

 

c.       denying the remainder of the requested information described in paragraph 3, above.

 

            5.  By letter dated and filed on December 30, 2004, the complainants appealed the foregoing denial to the Commission, which was docketed by the Commission as Docket #FIC 2004-578, Diane Struzzi and The Hartford Courant v. Commissioner, Department of Correction, State of Connecticut.

 

            6.  By letter dated January 6, 2005, the complainants restated and supplemented their December 16, 2004 request by requesting the following:

 

a.  “Any and all documents (including correspondence, e-mail, phone messages, contracts, memos, etc.) related to costs attributable to the planned execution of Michael Ross.”

 

b.  “Any and all documents (including correspondence, e-mail, phone messages, contracts, memos, etc.) related to the hiring, contracting with or assigning of participants involved in the execution process, the qualifications of those participants and the training and experience of those participants.”

 

c.  “Any and all documents (including correspondence, e-mail, phone messages, contracts, memos, etc.) related to the Connecticut-licensed physician who is required under state law to approve the training of the executioner.”

 

d.  “The number and names of the special task force of corrections [sic] officers assigned to prisoner Michael Ross since he entered Osborn Correctional Institution, and any and all documents (including correspondence, e-mail, phone messages, contracts, memos, etc.) related to that special task force and its costs.”

 

e.  “any and all documents relating to the method of delivering the lethal injection, including any device Connecticut has procured to carry out this function.”

 

            7.  By letter dated January 6, 2005, the DOC acknowledged receipt of the complainants’ letter of same date.

 

            8.  By letter dated January 12, 2005, the DOC responded to both of the complainants’ letters of request, again providing the requested legal authority.

 

            9.  On January 13, 2005, the DOC provided the complainants with (a) a certificate issued by the state Department of Consumer Protection; and (b) certain purchase orders and request forms.  The DOC denied the complainants the remainder of the requested information.

 

            10.  By letter dated and filed January 13, 2005, the complainants again appealed to the Commission from the denial described in paragraph 9, above, which is the complaint filed herein.

 

            11.  During the hearing on January 19, 2005, the parties entered on the record an agreement that the respondent commissioner would do a further search to determine whether there were additional records that were responsive to the complainants’ requests.  The parties agreed that this further search would include, among other things, a search for e-mails that may have been deleted from personal computers, but which might still be available through a search of any back-up systems.  The respondent promised to provide the complainants with any newly discovered records falling within the purview of their requests that she believed were not exempt from disclosure.

 

            12.  On January 24 and 25, 2005, additional records were provided to the complainants.  Some of these records were in redacted form.

 

            13.  The complainants continue to seek access to any records responsive to their request that have not been provided to them.

 

            14.  At the direction of the undersigned hearing officer, the respondent submitted records for in camera review.  For identification purposes, the in camera records consist of 432 pages and have been designated IC page #s 2004-578-1 through 2004-578-432, inclusive.  These records include, among other things, payment records, e-mails, a personal service agreement, memoranda, architectural drawings, invoices, meeting agendas and notes, travel authorizations, purchase orders, a curriculum vitae, staff rosters and post orders.  The identities of virtually all individuals mentioned in these documents were redacted prior to submission for in camera review, as agreed by the parties.  Further, at the hearing on this matter, the complainants withdrew, without prejudice, their request for the identity of individuals set forth in the requested records.

           

15.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., defines “public record” as:

 

any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

            16.  Section 1-210(a), G.S., in turn, provides in relevant part that:

 

Except 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 the right to inspect such

records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212.

 

            17.  It is found that the records sought by the complainants constitute “public records” and must be disclosed to the public in accordance with 1-210(a), G.S., unless otherwise exempt from disclosure.

 

            18.  The respondent claims that the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(18), G.S., because, in her opinion, there is a reasonable belief that their disclosure would pose a safety risk to those individuals involved in the execution at issue who could be directly or indirectly identified through such disclosure.

 

            19.  Section 1-210(b)(18), G.S., in pertinent part, provides an exemption for public records the disclosure of which:

the Commissioner of Correction . . . has reasonable grounds to believe may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person or the risk of an escape from, or a disorder in, a correctional institution or facility under the supervision of the Department of Correction . . . . Such records shall include, but are not limited to:

(A)  Security manuals, including emergency plans contained or referred to in such security manuals;

(B)  Engineering and architectural drawings of correctional institutions or facilities or Whiting Forensic Division facilities;

(C)  Operational specifications of security systems utilized by the Department of Correction at any correctional institution or facility . . . , except that a general description of any such security system and the cost and quality of such system may be disclosed;

(D)  Training manuals prepared for correctional institutions and facilities   . . . that describe, in any manner, security procedures, emergency plans or security equipment;

(E)  Internal security audits of correctional institutions and facilities . . . ;

(F)  Minutes or recordings of staff meetings of the Department of Correction . . . facilities, or portions of such minutes or recordings, that contain or reveal information relating to security or other records otherwise exempt from disclosure under this subdivision;

(G)  Logs or other documents that contain information on the movement or assignment of inmates or staff at correctional institutions or facilities; and

(H)  Records that contain information on contacts between inmates, as defined in section 18-84, and law enforcement officers. . . .

            20.  The respondent also contends that the complainants must pay the costs for providing a copy of those non-exempt requested records obtained from back-up tapes of electronic records.

            21.  It is found that the respondent failed to establish the existence of any reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the requested information set forth in paragraph 6, above, without disclosing the identities of the persons involved, may result in a “safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person or the risk of an escape from, or a disorder in, a correctional institution or facility under the supervision of” DOC, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(18), G.S.

 

            22.  Consequently, it is concluded that the respondent violated 1-210(a), G.S., when she denied the complainants access to the records containing the information described in paragraph 6, above, with identifying data redacted.

            The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:

            1.  Forthwith the respondent shall provide the complainants with a copy of the redacted in camera records described in paragraph 14, above, at no cost.

 

2.      Because the respondent did not comply with the time period set forth in

exhibit #7, the respondent shall, forthwith, provide the complainants, at no cost to the complainants, a copy of all requested records from computer backup tapes or systems as described in paragraph 11, above

 

3.      In complying with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this order and pursuant to the

withdrawal of the complainants’ request for identities, the respondent may redact identities and details identifying persons described in the requested records.

 

                                                                       

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 11, 2005.

 

________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

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:

 

Diane Struzzi and The Hartford Courant

c/o William  S. Fish, Jr., Esq.

Tyler Cooper & Alcorn LLP

CityPlace – 35th floor

Hartford, CT 06103-3488

 

Commissioner, Department of Correction,

State of Connecticut

c/o Henri Alexandre, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2005-019/paj/5/16/2005