FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion

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)     Advisory Opinion   #15

 

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Town of Wallingford, Applicant

)     May 18, 1976

 

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The Commission has agreed to respond to a request for an advisory opinion concerning 2(d) of P.A. 75-342. The subject text describes records that are excluded from the public records whose disclosure is required by this statute. The exception class is described in the following quotation:

 

" personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of
which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy; ....

 

The applicant, Town of Wallingford, asks whether the quoted language means that no part of personnel or medical files must be disclosed or that disclosure may be denied only as to those portions which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

 

On the basis of its experience in contested cases arising out of complaints, the Freedom of Information Commission has discovered that portions of personnel files may be outside the class of public records that is exempted from the requirement of disclosure provided by P.A. 75-342. In some instances, for example, the names and salaries of teachers have been ordered disclosed. In other cases, appropriate anonymity has been preserved.

 

In one decided complaint, the Commission found that even the disclosure of the name of a patient at a mental institution would be an invasion of that patient's privacy under the circumstances presented.

 

 

The context of P.A. 75-342 requires the Commission to consider from case to case whether or not it is the intent of the General Assembly to exclude from disclosure specific components of any personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

 

By way of further clarification, the Commission explains that the real party in interest in such cases as arise under this clause is not actually a participant in the hearing. As a consequence, the custodian of an individual's records may be forced to reveal such records without letting the subject of the records argue against such disclosure. This places a peculiar and onerous burden on the Commission to proceed with caution and to balance the interest of the public in disclosure against the interest of the individual in privacy and anonymity.

 

In summary, the Commission advises that it will order partial disclosure of information excerpted from personnel or medical files in a specific case where the context in which the request arises is such that disclosure will not unduly invade the privacy of the person who is the subject of the records involved. In that case any disclosure ordered will be narrowly limited.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

                                                                                ________________________
                                                                                            Herbert Brucker, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information
                                                                                            Commission

Date ___________________

 

Ordered_________________

Louis J. Tapogna, Clerk