FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Curt Rivard,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-466

Lauren Powers, Freedom of

Information Officer and Deputy

Warden, State of Connecticut,

Northern Correctional Institution,

Department of Correction; and

State of Connecticut, Department

of Correction,

 
  Respondents May 12, 2010
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 5, 2009, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint. 

 

The complainant, who is incarcerated, appeared via teleconference, pursuant to the January 2004 memorandum of understanding between the Commission and the Department of Correction.  See  Docket No. CV 03-0826293, Anthony Sinchak v. FOIC et al, Superior Court, J.D. of Hartford at Hartford, Corrected Order dated January 27, 2004 (Sheldon, J.). 

 

For purposes of hearing, the above-captioned matter was consolidated with docket #FIC 2009-350, Curt Rivard v. Jon Brighthaupt, Deputy Warden, State of Connecticut, Department of Correction, Northern Correctional Institution; and State of Connecticut, Department of Correction.

 

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 complainant is an inmate and is in the custody of the Commissioner of the respondent Department of Correction (hereinafter “the respondent department” or “the DOC” alternately).

 

3.      It is found that by letter dated July 21, 2009, the complainant made a request to the respondent deputy warden for “a complete payroll list of names of correctional officers, lieutenants, captains, mental health workers, medical staff and maintenance workers who work[ed] at Northern C.I. from 2007 until the present date.”  The complainant requested that the list “ . . . consist of first and last names.”

 

4.      It is found that by letter dated July 22, 2009, the respondent deputy warden acknowledged receipt of the complainant’s request and informed him that they could not create a document that met the criteria of his request.

 

5.      It is found that by letter dated July 23, 2009, to the respondent deputy warden, the complainant explained that his request was for the payroll list of employees that work at Northern C.I., which is a document that already is in existence.

 

6.      It is found that by letter dated August 3, 2009, the respondent deputy warden informed the complainant that the information he requested is not released to the inmate population for safety and security reasons and that the records were exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(18), G.S.

 

7.      By letter dated August 4, 2009 and filed on August 12, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to comply with his records request.

 

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 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 . . . 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 found that the requested record is a public record within the meaning of 1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

12.   It is found that the respondents do not maintain any records responsive to the complainant’s request with respect to the medical or mental health staff assigned to Northern C.I. because those individuals are employed by the University of Connecticut Health Center and not the respondent department.

 

13.   Notwithstanding the respondents’ denial of the complainant’s records request, it is found that by letter dated October 8, 2009, the respondents provided the complainant with a copy of a list of Northern C.I. staff as of September 24, 2009 with the first names and ID information redacted.  It is found that the respondents also provided the complainant with a copy of a record captioned “NP-4 CO 36.25 Hour Salary Plan effective 6/24/2008” which lists the annual, bi-weekly, daily and hourly salary of correctional officers by pay grade.

 

14.   It is found that, subsequently, the respondent deputy warden provided the complainant with a copy of a list of Northern C.I. staff as of September 24, 2009 with only the ID information redacted.  It is found that the respondent deputy warden provided the second copy of the list at the direction of the respondent department’s Legal Service Unit.

 

15.   It is found, however, that on November 4, 2009, the respondents confiscated both lists that were provided to the complainant.

 

16.   Section 1-210(b)(18), G.S., provides in relevant part that:

 

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 . . .  

 

17.   It is found that the complainant’s disciplinary history is riddled with offenses that include interference with safety and security, and assaults on and threats against staff, with the most recent threat occurring on October 22, 2009. 

 

18.   It is found that one of the more disturbing threats reported in the complainant’s disciplinary history is one in which he called out to a female correctional officer by her first and last name and stated that when he is released he would find and sexually assault her.

 

19.   It is found that the reported threat described in paragraph 18, above, was clearly an attempt to intimidate the correctional officer, to undermine her authority and shake her confidence and that the use of her first and last name was intended to make the threat more ominous.

 

20.   It is found that the respondents train their staff not to disclose their first names to inmates and to direct inmates to address them only by their last names if their first names are otherwise learned by the inmates. 

 

21.   The respondents contended at the hearing on this matter, and it is found, that the use of just last names creates, and maintains, the formal relationship between staff and inmates that is integral to the order in a correctional facility because the formality generates respect for a staff member and his or her authority. 

 

22.   The respondents contended at the hearing on this matter, and it is found, that if an inmate does not respect a staff member and his or her authority, he is more likely to disobey directives which the respondents reasonably believe may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person or a disorder in a correctional institution or facility, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(18), G.S.

 

23.   Furthermore, it is found that when the first and last name of a DOC employee is used in the manner described in paragraph 18, above, a staff member may lose the confidence to exert his or her authority, and may not fully perform his or her duties.  It is found that such duties would include conducting a thorough cell or body search for contraband, such as homemade weapons, which if not appropriately confiscated, creates a grave safety and security risk in the prison - even if that risk resulted from a staff member not doing his or her job.

 

24.   It is found that there is substantial evidence in the record that the respondents have reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the requested record to this specific inmate would facilitate the type of risk described in paragraphs 22 and 23, above.

 

25.   It is found that the respondent Commissioner has reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure of the requested records to the complainant 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, within the meaning of 1-210(b)(18), G.S.

 

26.   At the hearing on this matter, the complainant was asked by the hearing officer if he would accept a record with only the last names of staff members and the complainant stated that he would not.

 

27.   It is concluded, therefore, that the respondents did not violate the FOI Act as alleged by the complainant.

 

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 May 12, 2010.

 

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

Curt Rivard, #337249

Northern Correctional Institution

287 Bilton Road

Somers, CT 06071

 

Lauren Powers, Freedom of

Information Officer and Deputy

Warden, State of Connecticut,

Northern Correctional Institution,

Department of Correction; and

State of Connecticut, Department

of Correction

c/o Nancy B. Canney, Esq.

Department of Correction

24 Wolcott Hill Road

Wethersfield, CT 06109

 

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2009-466FD/paj/5/13/2010