FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Norman A. Pattis,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2007-160

James Strillacci, Chief, Police Department,

Town of West Hartford,

 
  Respondent March 12, 2008
       

            

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 14, 2007, at which time the complainant and the respondent 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 respondent is a public agency within the meaning of 1-200(1), G.S.

 

2.  By letter filed March 15, 2007, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondent violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying the complainant’s March 8, 2007 request for certain public records.

 

3.  It is found that the complainant by letter dated March 8, 2007 reiterated his earlier request for, among other records no longer at issue, a copy of  “any and all documentation that you or your department retain regarding attorneys or law firms who bring lawsuits on behalf of plaintiffs against the town of West Hartford.” 

 

4.  It is found that the respondent maintains a list of lawsuits filed against him and officers in his department. 

 

5.  It is found that the list contains the name of the suit, its subject matter, the date of the underlying incident, the attorneys representing the parties, and the status of the suit. 

 

            6.  It is found that the list also contains the respondent’s own thoughts, interpretations and editorializing concerning the cases listed, under the categories of “subject” and “status.”

 

            7.  It is found that the respondent declined to provide the portion of the list of lawsuits described in paragraph 6, above.  These redactions are the only record at issue in this case.

 

8.  Section 1-200(5), G.S., provides:

 

“Public records or files” means 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.

 

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

 

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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. 

 

10.  Section 1-212(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.”

 

11.  It is concluded that the unredacted list is a public record within the meaning of 1-200(5), G.S.

 

12.  The respondent maintains that his notes are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(1) and 1-210(b)(4), G.S.

 

13.  Section 1-210(b)(1), G.S. provides that disclosure is not required of:

 

   Preliminary drafts or notes provided the public agency has determined that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure …

 

14.  Section 1-210(b)(4), G.S., provides that disclosure is not required of:

 

Records pertaining to strategy and negotiations with respect to pending claims or pending litigation to which the public agency is a party until such litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or otherwise settled …

 

15.  It is found that the respondent created the list to keep the basic facts of the cases listed straight in his own head.

 

16.  It is found that the respondent did not create the list on anyone’s advice or for the use of any other public officer or employee.

 

17.  It is found that the list generally, and the redacted portion of the record in particular, was made by the respondent for his own use as a memory aid. 

 

18.  It is found that the list, including the redacted portion of it, is a “note” within the meaning of 1-210(b)(1), G.S.

 

19.  It is found that the respondent failed to prove that the note at issue is preliminary, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(1), G.S.

 

20.    Therefore, it is concluded that the redacted portion of the list of lawsuits is

 not permissibly exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(1), G.S.

 

21.    It is also found that the respondent failed to prove that the record at issue is

 exempt pursuant to 1-210(b)(4), G.S.

 

22.  It is concluded that the respondent violated 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by providing the list of lawsuits in a redacted form.

 

23.  The Commission declines to consider the imposition of a civil penalty in this matter.

 

 

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 complainant with the record at issue, unredacted.

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of March 12, 2008.

 

________________________________

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:

 

Norman A. Pattis

649 Amity Road

PO Box 280

Bethany, CT 06524

           

James Strillacci, Chief, Police Department,

Town of West Hartford

c/o Patrick G. Alair, Esq.

Deputy Corporation Counsel

50 South Main Street

West Hartford, CT 06107-2431

 

 

 

___________________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2007-160FD/paj/3/12/2008