FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT

 

 

In the Matter of a Request
for Advisory Opinion


 

     Advisory Opinion   #47

New Milford Town Counsel,

Applicant

    

 

 

 

On August 12, 1981, the Commission considered and agreed to respond to the request for an advisory opinion filed by the New Milford Town Counsel.

 

In his request, the applicant states that the New Milford Board of Selectmen is considering a proposed ordinance dealing with the transmission of false burglar alarms. Under section 5 of the proposed ordinance, the chief of police, after specified notice, may refuse to respond to future burglar alarms if a user of an alarm system fails to pay any fine levied for prior false alarms within a certain period of time.

 

In essence, the applicant seeks the Commission's opinion as to whether the records pertaining to such delinquent alarm users, and which identify the alarm systems that may not be responded to by the police, constitute public records that must be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑18a(d) defines "public records" 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, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.

 

A municipal Police department is a public agency within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑18a(a). Therefore, it is the Commission's opinion that the records containing the identities of delinquent alarm users, and the alarm systems that may not be responded to, are public records as defined above.

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑19(a) provides that all public records must be made available for public inspection or copying, unless otherwise provided by federal law or state statute. With the possible exception of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-19(b)(3), discussed below, the Commission has been unable to find any federal law or state statute that permits or requires the nondisclosure of the subject records.

 

In light of the foregoing, the one remaining issue is whether Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-19(b)(3) would exempt the subject records from public disclosure. That subsection states that nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require the disclosure of

 

(3) 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, (B) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action, (C) investigatory techniques not otherwise known to the general public, or (D) arrest records of a juvenile, which shall also include any investigatory files, concerning the arrest of such juvenile, compiled for law enforcement purposes. . . . *

 

Sections 3 and 4 of the proposed ordinance would establish fines for false alarms. Section 5 would permit the police chief to refuse to respond to additional alarms upon failure to pay an assessed fine for false alarms. Thus, any records maintained in this regard by the police department would not be compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime. In fact, they would be records of delinquency in paying monies owed to the municipality.

 

Disclosure of the records of any such delinquency would be in the public interest because the administration and collection of funds by public agencies are legitimate areas of public concern. State of' Connecticut v. Freedom of Information Commission, ___Conn., 42 Conn. L.J., No. 45, p. 1, 2 (May 5, 1981); Wallingford v. Freedom of Information Commission, Super. Ct., JD New Haven, No. 164733, Memorandum of Decision filed February 18, 1981 (Celotto, J.), p. 9. The public has the right to know whether the fining provisions of the proposed ordinance, if enacted, are being administered fairly and impartially. It likewise has the right to know what efforts its government agencies are undertaking to compel collection of monies owing to the municipality, monies that if paid would help defray the cost of governmental services.

 

Furthermore, it is the Commission's opinion that none of the lettered subdivisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. S 1‑19(b)(3) would apply to any record generated entirely for the purposes of sections 3, 4 and 5 of the proposed ordinance. The highly qualified and limiting language of those subdivisions makes abundantly clear that the General Assembly neither contemplated nor intended that it cover the kinds of records here in question. Indeed, those subdivisions relate only to the kinds of information that would be compiled by a law enforcement agency in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, not records of agency administration such as these.

 

Consequently, it is the Commission's opinion that Conn. Gen. Stat. 1‑19(b)(3) would not exempt municipal police department records listing delinquent alarm users, and identifying the alarm systems that may not be responded to by the police because of such delinquency.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                            By Order of the Freedom of
                                                                                            Information Commission

                                                                                           

                                                                                ________________________
                                                                                            Judith A. Lahey, Chairman of
                                                                                            of the Freedom of Information
                                                                                            Commission

Date ___________________

 

Ordered_________________

Mary Jo Jolicoeur
Clerk of the Commission