FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION

A.J. O’Connell, Jerrod Ferrari,

and the Wilton Villager,

 
  Complainants  
  against   Docket #FIC 2006-387

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Children and Families;

and Superintendent of Schools,

Wilton Public Schools,

 
  Respondents July 11, 2007
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on April 10 and May 7, 2007, at which times 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.

 

2.      It is found that the complainants learned from the parent of a student attending Wilton High School that the student had been locked in an unpadded closet at the school for up to six hours, which resulted in an investigation by the Department of Children and Families into allegations of abuse and neglect by the high school and its staff.

 

3.      It is found that by letters dated July 12, 2006, the complainants requested that the respondents provide them with access to inspect and a copy of “any records relating to any investigations by the Department of Children and Families into the special education program at Wilton High School.”

 

4.      It is found that on or about July 20, 2006, both respondents denied the complainants’ request.

 

5.      By letter dated July 24, 2006, and filed on July 27, 2006, the complainants appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with their request.

 

6.      Section 1-210(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 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….”  [Emphasis added.]

 

7.      Section 1-212(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 . . . .” 

 

8.      It is found that the requested records are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S.

 

9.      At the hearing in this matter, the respondents moved to dismiss the complaint, contending, in part, that the Commission lacks jurisdiction in this matter by virtue of 17a-28, G.S.

 

10.   Section 17a-28(a)(5), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

"Records" means information created or obtained in connection with the department's child protection activities or activities related to a child while in the care or custody of the department, including information in the registry of reports to be maintained by the commissioner pursuant to section 17a-101k . . . .

 

11.   Section 17a-28(b), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 1-210, 1-211 or 1-213 [of the FOI Act], records maintained by the department shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed. Such records of any person may only be disclosed, in whole or in part, to any individual, agency, corporation or organization with the consent of the person or as provided in this section. Any unauthorized disclosure shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

 

12.   Section 17a-101k(a), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

The Commissioner of Children and Families shall maintain a registry of the commissioner's findings of abuse or neglect of children. . . The information contained in the registry and any other information relative to child abuse, wherever located, shall be confidential, subject to such statutes and regulations governing their use and access as shall conform to the requirements of federal law or regulations.  [Emphasis added]

 

13.   It is found that the respondent Commissioner submitted the records responsive to the complainants’ request to the Commission for in camera inspection, which records have been identified as in camera records docket #FIC 2006-387A, that consist of:

 

a.       Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) “CPS Report Protocol” form;

b.      DCF “CPS Report Narrative”;

c.       DCF Report of its investigation into allegations of physical neglect at Wilton High School; and

d.      student records, including the PPT and behavioral support plan, and behavioral incident reports of that student.

 

14.   It is found that the respondent superintendent submitted records responsive to the complainants’ request to the Commission for in camera inspection, which records have been identified as in camera records docket #FIC 2006-387B, that consist of:

 

a.       DCF Report of its investigation into allegations of physical neglect at Wilton High School;

b.      DCF notification of investigation results;

c.       Request for Appeal of DCF findings; and

d.      DCF notification of internal review results.

 

15.  It is found that in camera records docket #FIC 2006-387A and B pertain to DCF’s findings of abuse and neglect and constitute records related to the child protection activities of the respondent commissioner within the meaning of 17a-28(b) and 17a-101k(a) G.S., respectively.

 

16.   It is found that pursuant to 17a-101k(a), G.S., the respondent superintendent is precluded from disclosing the requested records.

 

17.   It is found that pursuant to 17a-101k(a) and 17a-28, G.S., the respondent commissioner is precluded from disclosing the requested records to the complainants.

18.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by denying the complainants’ records request.

 

 

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.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 11, 2007.

 

________________________________

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:

 

A.J. O’Connell, Jerrod Ferrari,

and the Wilton Villager

346 Main Street

Norwalk, CT 06852

 

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Children and Families

c/o Donald E. Sherchuk, Esq.

Principal Attorney

Department of Children and Families

One Grove Street

New Britain, CT 06053

 

Superintendent of Schools,

Wilton Public Schools

c/o Thomas Mooney, Esq. and

Erin Duques, Esq.

Shipman & Goodwin

One Constitution Plaza

Hartford, CT 06103

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2006-387FD/paj/7/17/2007