FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
James Torlai,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-325

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety; and

State of Connecticut, Department

of Public Safety,

 
  Respondents May 12, 2010
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on October 20, 2009, at which time the complainant 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, by letter dated March 5, 2009[1], the complainant made his initial request for records from the respondents, in which he sought copies of 40 pages from a log book that contains records created by the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) when it conducts, or assists local police departments with, DUI roadblocks.  It is further found that, by letter dated March 18, 2009, the respondents acknowledged the complainant’s request and informed him that they were in the process of gathering the responsive records.  The respondents further informed the complainant that he would be notified with regard to any fees that might be due once the responsive records were compiled. 

 

3.  It is found that, on April 21, 2009, the respondents provided the complainant with all of the records responsive to the request—40 pages in total.  It is further found that, by letter dated April 21, 2009, the respondents informed the complainant that some of the information contained in the records had been redacted because it was exempt from the disclosure provisions of the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act. 

4.  It is found that, by letter dated May 4, 2009, the complainant corresponded with the respondents, seeking that they further explain the nature of the redactions that they had made in the records. 

 

5.  It is found that, by letter dated May 11, 2009, the respondents informed the complainant that some of the information had been redacted from the records because it was exempt from disclosure pursuant to the state’s erasure statutes, and that other information had been redacted from the records because it concerned pending prosecutions. 

 

6.  By letter dated May 25, 2009 and filed June 2, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by denying his request for records.  In his letter of complaint, the complainant indicated that he was not challenging any of the redactions made in the records by virtue of Connecticut’s erasure statutes, but rather was only challenging the redactions that the respondents made with regard to pending prosecutions.  In addition, at the hearing on this matter, the complainant testified that he was not challenging the redactions in the records made to keep confidential the name of the person into whose custody an arrested individual was released.

 

7. 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.

 

8. 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 . . .  (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212.

 

9. Section 1-212(a)(1), 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. 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), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S., and that copies of such records must be provided in accordance with 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S., unless the records, or portions of the records, are exempt from disclosure. 

 

11. At the hearing on this matter, the respondents contended that the records were redacted pursuant to 1-215, G.S, because the cases to which the records pertain were “pending.”  Furthermore, the respondents specifically stated that they were not claiming exemption for the records at issue pursuant to 1-210(b)(3), G.S.

 

12. Section 1-215, G.S., provides as follows:

 

 (a)  Notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes to the contrary, and except as otherwise provided in this section, any record of the arrest of any person, other than a juvenile, except a record erased pursuant to chapter 961a, shall be a public record from the time of such arrest and shall be disclosed in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212 and subsection (a) of section 1-210, except that disclosure of data or information other than that set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of this section shall be subject to the provisions of subdivision (3) of subsection (b) of section 1-210.  Any personal possessions or effects found on a person at the time of such person's arrest shall not be disclosed unless such possessions or effects are relevant to the crime for which such person was arrested. (Emphasis supplied.)

 

(b)  For the purposes of this section, “record of the arrest” means (1) the name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense for which the person was arrested, and (2) at least one of the following, designated by the law enforcement agency:  The arrest report, incident report, news release or other similar report of the arrest of a person.

 

13. It is found that the requested records, identified in paragraph 2, above, are created by the respondents when a DUI arrest is made.  Specifically, it is found that when an individual is arrested by the respondents for a DUI offense at a roadblock, certain information is recorded by the respondents concerning the arrested individual.  It is further found that the information recorded by the respondents is attached to a print out that emanates from an “intoxilyzer” machine. 

 

14. It is the respondents’ position that, other than the pieces of information required to be disclosed pursuant to 1-215, G.S., they are not required to disclose any other records having to do with or relating in any way to the arrest of an individual while the case against such individual is pending in a criminal court. 

 

15.  It is further found that, with regard to the DUI arrests made by the respondents and reflected in the records at issue in this case, the respondents issued a news release in accordance with 1-215(b)(2), G.S.  It is the respondents’ position that, because the news release satisfied the disclosure obligations outlined in 1-215, G.S., they have no additional FOI obligations to disclose other records related to these DUI arrests, such as the records at issue in this case. 

 

16. At the hearing, the respondents conceded that, for purposes of 1-215(b)(1), G.S., the records at issue in this case do not constitute “record[s] of arrest.”

 

17. When construing statutes, the courts’ and administrative tribunals’ fundamental objective “is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature.”  State v. Patterson, 276 Conn. 452, 478, 886 A.2d 777 (2005).  “In seeking to discern that intent, we look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its relationship to the existing legislation and common law principles governing the same general subject matter.”  Id. at 478-79 (quoting State v. Kirk R., 271 Conn. 499, 510, 857 A.2d 908 (2004). 

 

18.  Pursuant to 1-2z, G.S., “the meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes.  If, after examining such text and considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results, extratexual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered.” 

 

19.  “It is also a general principle of statutory interpretation that every word [in a statute] has meaning regardless of the type of statute.” State v. Brown, Jr., 49 Conn. Supp. 168, 865 A.2d 510 (Conn. Super. Ct. Nov. 2, 2004).  In other words, “no part of a legislative enactment is to be treated as insignificant or unnecessary, and there is a presumption of purpose behind every sentence, clause or phrase. . . [so that] no word [or phrase] in a statute is to be treated as superfluous.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted).  State v. Peeler, 271 Conn. 338, 434-35, 857 A.2d 808 (2004); see also State v. Szymkiewicz, 237 Conn. 613, 621, 678 A.2d 473 (1996) (“It is, however, equally understood that despite the nature of the statute, it must be construed, if possible, such that no clause, sentence or word shall be superfluous, void, or insignificant. . . .”).

 

20.  It is concluded that the language in 1-215, G.S., is clear and unambiguous. 

 

21.  It is further concluded that the interpretation of 1-215(b), G.S., advanced by the respondents would render the obligations and the instructions set forth in 1-215(a), G.S., nugatory, in contravention of the general principle of statutory construction set forth in paragraph 19, above.  See State v. Nelson, 126 Conn. 412, 416, 11 A.2d 865 (1940) (“Courts may not by construction supply omissions in a statute, or add exceptions because it appears to them that good reasons exist for adding them.”).  Specifically, it is concluded that the respondents’ interpretation of their disclosure obligations set forth in 1-215(b), G.S., would eviscerate the clear direction in 1-215(a), G.S., which is that the disclosure of law enforcement records must be decided in light of the permissive exemptions set forth in 1-210(b)(3), G.S. ( “disclosure of data or information other than that set forth in subdivision (1) of subsection (b) of [1-215, G.S.] shall be subject to the provision of subdivision (3) of subsection (b) of section 1-210”) (emphasis supplied).

 

22.  It is further concluded that 1-215, G.S., does not exempt records from public disclosure under the FOI Act, but rather mandates that, at a minimum, certain information about arrests must be disclosed.  In instances where an agency seeks to withhold records not mandated to be disclosed pursuant to 1-215, G.S., such public agency must prove that an exemption applies to such other records.

 

23.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the records identified in paragraph 2, above, are not exempt from mandatory disclosure by virtue of 1-215, G.S.  It is further concluded that the respondent violated the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by failing to provide the complainant with unredacted copies of the records that were withheld pursuant to 1-215, G.S.

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

1.  Forthwith, the respondents shall provide to the complainant unredacted copies of the records that were withheld pursuant to 1-215, G.S.   In complying with this order, the respondents may redact from such records the name of the person into whose custody an arrested individual was released. 

 

2.  Henceforth, the respondents shall strictly comply with the disclosure requirements of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

            3. Enforcement of paragraph 1 of the order is stayed until resolution of the appeal of the Memorandum of Decision in Commissioner, State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission, et al. (No. CV 09 4020071S) (April 21, 2010).



 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of May 12, 2010.

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

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:

 

James Torlai

127 Barton Street

Torrington, CT 06790


Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety; and

State of Connecticut, Department

of Public Safety

C/o Terrence M. O’Neill, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2009-325FD/sw/5/14/2010

 



[1] Based on the testimony and documentary evidence submitted in this case, the Commission finds that the date on the complainant’s request for records, to wit “3/5/08,” is a typographical error.  It is found that the actual date of the request made in this case is March 5, 2009.