FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

In the Matter of a Complaint by FINAL DECISION
Thomas Howard,  
  Complainant  
  against   Docket #FIC 2010-154

Chief, Police Department, City of

West Haven; and Police Department,

City of West Haven,

 
  Respondents February 9, 2011
       

 

The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on September 7, 2010, at which time the complainant and respondents appeared 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.).  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 in August of 2008, the complainant requested a copy of the complete file in the case against him for robbery on April 3, 2007.

 

3.      It is found that the respondents provided the incident report to the complainant.  It is found that the complainant and respondents corresponded over the course of several months about the contents of the file, whether the respondents maintained the records that the complainant sought, and whether the records were exempt from disclosure.

 

4.      It is found that in a letter dated February 5, 2010, the respondents informed the complainant that they did not maintain any of the complainant’s medical records related to the incident on April 3, 2007.

 

5.      By letter filed on March 5, 2010, the complainant appealed to this Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (“FOI”) Act by failing to provide copies of all of the records responsive to the complainant’s request, described in paragraph 2, above, including but not limited to the complainant’s medical records. 

 

6.      Section 1-200(5), G.S., defines “public records” as follows:

 

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, …whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

7.      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 inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours or to receive a copy of such records in accordance with the provisions of section 1-212.

 

8.      Section 1-212(a), G.S., provides in relevant part:  “Any person applying in writing shall receive, promptly upon request, a plain or certified copy of any public record.”

 

9.       It is concluded that the records requested by the complainant are public records within the meaning of 1-200(5), 1-210(a), and 1-212(a), G.S.

 

10.    It is found that the respondents subsequently discovered that they did maintain the complainant’s medical records related to the incident of April 3, 2007.  It is found that such records were attached to the incident report and were maintained by the respondents at the time of the complainant’s request in 2008. 

 

11.   It is found that the respondents provided the complainant with the medical records he requested on September 1, 2010.  It is found that the respondents failed to provide such records to the complainant in a prompt manner.

 

12.   Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents violated the promptness provisions of the FOI Act.

 

13.    At the hearing in this matter, the complainant stated that he still sought handwritten notes and other records in the file, as part of his request for the complete file, described in paragraph 2, above.

 

14.    It is found that the respondents do not maintain handwritten notes concerning this incident.

 

15.   It is found, however, that a detective for the respondents tape-recorded his interviews of four witnesses concerning the incident.  It is found that although the tape-recordings no longer exist, the respondents maintain transcriptions of each of the interviews.  The respondents claim that the transcriptions are exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to 1-210(b)(3)(A), G.S.

 

16.   Section 1-210(b)(3), G.S., exempts:

 

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 (A) the identity of informants not otherwise known or the identity of witnesses not otherwise known whose safety would be endangered or who would be subject to threat or intimidation if their identity was made known[.]

 

17.    The respondents provided the records at issue to this Commission for an in camera inspection.  The in camera records consist of 19 pages, which pages have been designated by the Commission as IC-2010-154-1 through IC-2010-154-19 for identification purposes.

 

18.    It is found that the in camera records consist of transcriptions of four tape-recorded interviews of witnesses concerning an alleged robbery and assault that occurred on April 3, 2007.  It is found that the interviewer was a detective for the respondent police department.

 

19.   It is found that the records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime within the meaning of 1-210(b)(3), G.S.

 

20.   It is found that the identities of the four witnesses are known because they are in the incident report, which the complainant has in his possession.

 

21.   It is found, therefore, that the records referenced in paragraph 17, above, do not satisfy the requirements of 1-210(b)(3), G.S.  Accordingly, it is concluded that the respondents violated the FOI Act by failing to disclose such records.

 

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

 

1.      The respondents shall provide in a prompt manner and free of charge the records referenced in paragraph 17 of the findings of fact, above. 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of February 9, 2011.

 

 

____________________________

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:

 

Thomas Howard, #328367

MacDougall-Walker C I

1153 East Street South

Suffield, CT 06080


Chief, Police Department, City of

West Haven; and Police Department,

City of West Haven

C/o Henry C. Szadkowski, Esq.

Corporation Counsel

City of West Haven

355 Main Street

West Haven, CT 06516

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

S. Wilson

Acting Clerk of the Commission

 

 

FIC/2010-154FD/sw/2/14/2011