FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Brian E. Mohl,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2009-380

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

Division of State Police; and

State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

Division of State Police,

 
  Respondents June 9, 2010
       

  

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on November 6, 2009, at which time the complainant and 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 facsimile dated May 4, 2009, the complainant made a request to the respondents for a copy of Connecticut State Police Report of Investigation No. 0700491727.  The complainant's request was also sent via interdepartmental mail.

 

3.      It is found that, by letter dated May 19, 2009, the respondents denied the complainant's request for a copy of the records, described in paragraph 2, above, because the investigation report contained uncorroborated allegations and was therefore exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(G), G.S.

 

4.      By letter dated June 18, 2009, and filed on June 25, 2009, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information ("FOI”) Act by failing to provide him with a copy of the records, described in paragraph 2, above.  By letter dated August 19, 2009, the complainant supplemented his complaint with additional facts pertaining to the request for and denial of the records at issue in this matter.

 

5.      At the hearing before the Commission, the respondents moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the ground that the complainant failed to file an appeal in a timely manner pursuant to 1-206(b)(l), G.S.

 

6.      Section 1-206(b)(1), G.S. states, in relevant part:

 

Any person denied the right to inspect or copy records...may appeal therefrom to the [Commission], by filing a notice of appeal with said commission...not later than thirty days after such denial....  For purposes of this subsection, such notice of appeal shall be deemed to be filed on the date it is received by said commission or on the date it is postmarked, if received more than thirty days after the date of the denial from which such appeal is taken.

 

7.      It is found that, although the respondents' reply to the records request was dated May 19, 2009, the complainant did not receive the denial until over a week later via interdepartmental mail.  The respondents' motion to dismiss is therefore denied.

 

8.      Section 1-200(5), G.S., defines "public records or files" as:

 

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 (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours. . .(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 "any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record."

 

11.  It is found that the records requested by the complainant are public records and must be disclosed in accordance with 1-200(5), 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., unless they are exempt from disclosure.

 

12.  The respondents claim that the requested records, as described in paragraph 2, above, are exempt from disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(G), G.S.

 

13.  Section 1-210(b)(3)(G), G.S., exempts in relevant part:

 

Records of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of said records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of...(G) uncorroborated allegations subject to destruction pursuant to section 1-216....

 

14.  In turn, 1-216, G.S., provides:

 

Except for records the retention of which is otherwise controlled by law or regulation, records of law enforcement agencies consisting of uncorroborated allegations that an individual has engaged in criminal activity shall be reviewed by the law enforcement agency one year after the creation of such records.  If the existence of the alleged criminal activity cannot be corroborated within ninety days of the commencement of such review, the law enforcement agency shall destroy such records.

 

15.  Upon order of the hearing officer, the respondents submitted the requested records to the Commission for in camera inspection, which records have been identified as IC-2009-380-001 through IC-2009-380-1087.

 

16.  In contested case Docket # FIC 1994-291; Rachel Gottlieb and The Hartford Courant v. State of Connecticut, Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, the Commission found that Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (1990), defines "corroborate" as "to strengthen, to add weight or credibility to a thing by additional and confirming facts or evidence.” Ballentine’s Law Dictionary, Third Edition (1969) defines corroborate as "to state facts tending to produce confidence in the truth of a statement made by another."  Funk & Wagnall New Standard Dictionary of the English Language (1946) defines corroborate as "to give increased support to; make more sure or evident."

 

17.  In Docket # FIC 1994-291, the Commission found that "the reports contain similar accounts relayed to the respondent by different interviewees concerning the allegations under investigation."  The Commission went on to find that "the requested reports contain allegations which were corroborated.”

 

18.  In this case, it is found that the in camera records consist of an investigation by the respondents and contain employee questionnaires, signed witness statements, forensic evidence (including DNA swabs and bullets), search warrants, phone records, time sheets and attendance records.

 

19.  It is found that the in camera records are records of a law enforcement agency not otherwise available to the public and that such records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime within the meaning of 1-210(b)(3), G.S.

 

20.  Based on a careful review of the in camera records, it is found that disclosure of such records would result in the disclosure of uncorroborated allegations within the meaning of 1-210(b)(3)(G), G.S.

 

21.  It is therefore concluded that the in camera records are permissibly exempt from mandatory disclosure under 1-210(b)(3)(G) and 1-216, G.S., and further that the respondents did not violate the disclosure provisions of 1-210(a) and 1-212(a), G.S., by denying the complainant's 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 June 9, 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:

 

Brian E. Mohl

20 Birchwood Lane

Woodbury, CT 06798

 

Commissioner, State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

Division of State Police; and

State of Connecticut,

Department of Public Safety,

Division of State Police

c/o James W. Caley, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General and

Matthew B. Beizer, Esq.

Assistant Attorney General

110 Sherman Street

Hartford, CT 06105

 

 

 

____________________________

Petrea A. Jones

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

 

FIC/2009-380FD/paj/6/16/2010