Stacom v. Personnel Director, City of New Britain
Although a city's policy with regard to investigating allegations of sexual harassment states that "[i]nformation concerning any complaint will only be shared or released on a need-to-know basis," such representation is not a state statute which provides the clear, affirmative statement of confidentiality required to shield the records from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Don Stacom and the Hartford Courant appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the respondents, the City of New Britain and its personnel director, violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to provide them with requested records. The FOIC found that the respondents made one of two police officer personnel complaints requested available for review, but claimed the second complaint, which dealt with allegations of sexual harassment, was exempt under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2) and the 2001 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Rocque v. FOIC. The individual who filed the second complaint objected to its disclosure. The record constituted a "personnel" or "similar" file within the meaning of C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2). The FOIC reviewed the contested record in camera and concluded that the name and home address of the sexual harassment complainant did not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and their disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. The remainder of the record contained information forming the basis of the complaint and revealed the manner in which the public agency dealt with the matter. The record pertained to legitimate matters of public concern. Its disclosure would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person and would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy, under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2). The city's policy to share or release such records only on "a need-to-know basis" was not a state statute providing the clear affirmative statement of confidentiality required to shield the records from public disclosure under the FOIA. The general allegations in the record did not implicate the concern for salacious detail expressed in Rocque. Other than the name and address, the respondents violated C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a) by denying access to the record and were directed to provide a free, redacted copy forthwith to the complainants.