FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
    for Advisory Opinion

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)     Advisory Opinion   #32

 

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Stamford Commission on Human Rights, Applicant

)     August 9, 1978

 

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On July 12, 1978, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the Stamford Commission on Human Rights.

 

By its letter of request, the applicant in essence presents the following questions:

 

1. Whether Conn. Gen. Stats. 1-19b (2) applies to the personnel files of non-public entities.

 

2. Whether Conn. Gen. Stats. 1-19b (2) confers the right upon employees to inspect or copy the contents of their respective personnel files.

 

1-19b reads in pertinent part:

 

Nothing in sections 1-15, 1-18a, 1-19 to 1-19b, inclusive, and 1-21 to 1-21k, inclusive, shall be ... (2) construed as authorizing the withholding of information in personnel files, birth records or of confidential tax data from the individual who is the subject of such records ....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As to the applicant's first question, it is clear that the statutory references in 1-19b limit the effect of that section to matters within the jurisdiction of Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act. That jurisdiction concerns the records and meetings of public agencies only. See Conn. Gen. Stats. 1-15 et seq. Consequently, it is the Commission's opinion that 1-19b (2) applies to the personnel files kept or maintained by public agencies only. The Commission therefore answers the applicant's first question in the negative.

 

With respect to the applicant's second question, the Commission notes that the language of 1-19b (2), taken in a vacuum, seemingly means that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall bar the disclosure of information in personnel files from the individual who is the subject of such records. An analysis of other statutes is necessary, however, before the Commission renders its opinion on this point.

 

Conn. Gen. Stats. 1-19(b) (2) provides that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act

 

... shall be construed to require disclosure of... (2) personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy....

 

For a personnel file to be exempt from disclosure, such disclosure must constitute an invasion of personal privacy. Hartford v. Kreig, Ct. Cmn. Pleas, Hartford County, No. 141867 (Memorandum of Decision dated December 19, 1977; Kinney, J.) p. 4. Thus, in the absence of other considerations, disclosure of the contents of a personnel file to the subject employee would not involve an invasion of privacy because there is no third-person disclosure emanating from the custodian of the file.

 

This construction of 1-19(b) (2) is consistent with the language of 1-19b. Furthermore, it is in keeping with the rule of statutory construction that statutes should be interpreted, if possible, so as to reconcile apparently inconsistent provisions in order to create one consistent body of law. State v. White, 169 Conn. 223 (1975); Spring v. Constantino, 168 Conn. 563 (1975). If anything, these sections can be read together as underscoring the legislature's intent that personnel files should not be exempt from disclosure to the individuals concerned - i.e., where there is no invasion of personal privacy within the terms of 1-19(b) (2). This position is likewise enhanced when considered in light of the General Assembly's more recent enactment of the State Privacy Act, Conn. Gen. Stats. 4-190 et seq. While admittedly limited to state agencies only, that act makes clear the strong legislative policy in favor of disclosure of personnel data to the subjects of such data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In view of the foregoing analysis, it is the Commission's opinion that the Freedom of Information Act confers the right upon employees to inspect or copy the contents of their respective personnel files. For the reasons set forth in response to the first question, this opinion applies only to the personnel files kept or maintained by public agencies as defined in Conn. Gen. Stats. 1-18a (a). To the extent that the Commission's conclusions contained in this opinion conflict with any of those in its past decisions, it is the Commission's specific intention to be guided in the future by this opinion with respect to any matter addressed herein.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

                                                                                ________________________
                                                                                            Helen M. Loy, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information
                                                                                            Commission

Date _August 9, 1978__

 

Ordered_________________

Charlene G. Arnold, Clerk