FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 2008-623|
Linda Roache, Operations Manager,
Regional Office #11, State of
Connecticut, Department of Social
Services; and State of Connecticut,
Department of Social Services,
|Respondents||May 13, 2009|
Subsequent to the scheduling of a hearing in the above-captioned matter, the respondents moved on January 6, 2009 to dismiss this matter on the ground that the records requested by the complainant were exempt as confidential records under the provisions of §17b-90, G.S., and that therefore the Commission did not have jurisdiction over this matter. On January 22, 2009, the complainant filed an objection to the respondents’ motion to dismiss.
This matter was heard as a contested case on January 22, 2009, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the motion to dismiss and the complaint. After brief argument from both sides on the respondents’ motion to dismiss, the hearing officer denied the motion so that evidence and testimony could be taken on the substantive issues in the case. For purposes of hearing, this matter was consolidated with Docket #FIC 2008-622; James Quattro v. Linda Roache, Operations Manager, Regional Office #11, State of Connecticut, Department of Social Services; and State of Connecticut, Department of Social Services.
By letter dated April 3, 2009, the complainant requested that the hearing be reopened and convened in executive session for the purpose of having the Hearing Officer’s review of “confidential” exhibits to be proffered by the complainant. On April 7, 2009, the respondents objected to such request. The complainant’s April 3, 2009 request is hereby denied.
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-200(1), G.S.
2. It is found that, on September 23, 2008, the complainant went to the respondents’ place of business, during regular office hours, and orally requested access to inspect the records in one of the respondents’ case files. It is further found that, at that time, the respondents denied the complainant access to the records at issue.
3. By letter dated and filed September 24, 2008, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying him prompt access to inspect the case file described in paragraph 2, above, on September 23, 2008.
4. 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.
5. Section 1-210(a), G.S., 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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours. . . .
6. Section 1-212, 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.”
7. It is found that the respondents maintain the documents described in paragraph 2, above, and it is therefore concluded that such records are “public records” within the meaning of §§1-200(5) and 1-210(a), G.S., and access to such records must be granted in accordance with §1-210(a), G.S., unless they are exempt from disclosure.
8. The respondents contend that the records at issue are exempt from disclosure pursuant to §17b-90(b), G.S., which section provides in relevant part as follows:
No person shall, except for purposes directly connected with the administration of programs of the Department of Social Services and in accordance with the regulations of the commissioner, solicit, disclose, receive or make use of, or authorize, knowingly permit, participate in or acquiesce in the use of, any list of the names of, or any information concerning, persons applying for or receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services or persons participating in a program administered by said department, directly or indirectly derived from the records, papers, files or communications of the state or its subdivisions or agencies, or acquired in the course of the performance of official duties. (Emphasis supplied).
It is found that the records described in paragraph 2, above,
constitute records within the meaning of §17b-90(b), G.S.
10. It is concluded that the requested records are exempt from disclosure pursuant to §17b-90(b), G.S.
11. The complainant testified that he did not request access to the records identified in paragraph 2, above, in his capacity as a member of the public, but rather as a “principal” of a person who has applied for or is receiving services from the respondent agency. The complainant further testified that, at the time he requested access to the records, he identified himself to the respondents as a “principal,” or an authorized representative.
12. However, the Commission must examine the complainant’s request for access to the records identified in paragraph 2, above, as it would examine any member of the public’s request for access to these same records, and may not consider or rule upon any special status that the complainant contends to have with the person who may be the subject of the records at issue. See Marlow v. FOIC, Docket No. CV 990493141S, 1999 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2756, at *7 (Oct. 12, 1999) (“Thus, the rights created under the FOIA are those of any individual as a member of the public. The Commission understands its charge as the enforcement of the public right to government records”).
13. It is found that it is the respondents’ policy to supervise their applicant and client records by sitting with a legal representative or other authorized individual when such individual reviews the respondents’ case records. It is found that when the complainant arrived at the respondents’ office on September 23, 2008 seeking access to the records described in paragraph 2, above, he was informed that there was no one available to sit with him at that time, and that he should return at a later date to review the records. It is found that the complainant returned at the later, designated date of September 25, 2008, and was granted access to the records identified in paragraph 2, above.
14. It is concluded that the respondents did not violate the provisions of §1-210(a), G.S., in this matter.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint.
1. The complaint is dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 13, 2009.
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:
17 Laurel Street
East Hartford, CT 06108
Linda Roache, Operations Manager,
Regional Office #11, State of Connecticut,
Department of Social Services; and State
of Connecticut, Department of Social
c/o Emily V. Melendez, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
55 Elm Street
PO Box 120
Hartford, CT 06141-0120
Petrea A. Jones
Acting Clerk of the Commission