Sullo v. Public Works Department, City of Derby
Records relating to the employees of public agencies are presumptively legitimate matters of public concern pursuant to the 1993 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission. Michelle Sullo and the New Haven Register appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the Public Works Department of the City of Derby violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with their request for records regarding disciplinary action taken against city employees for providing free paint striping at a private business. The employees concerned, Kelly Dunne and Shaun Wheeler, objected claiming that disclosure of the records would constitute an invasion of their personal privacy. The respondent department contended that the requested records were exempt from mandatory disclosure under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2). The FOIC found that the respondent failed to prove that it reasonably believed that disclosure of the requested records would legally constitute an invasion of personal privacy before notifying Dunne and Wheeler of the request, as required by C.G.S. §1-214(b). To constitute an invasion of personal privacy under Perkins, the exemption claimant must establish that the information sought did not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and the disclosure of such information would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. While Wheeler contended that he would personally find it embarrassing to have the records publicly disclosed and such embarrassment would be offensive to him, disclosure of a public employees' disciplinary records that describe misconduct and the action taken against the employee for such misconduct, does not meet the objective standard of disclosure that would be "highly offensive to a reasonable person" under Perkins. Because the public has a right to know when there is a misuse of public equipment and supplies by a public employee and the manner in which such misconduct is addressed, the requested records were a matter of legitimate public concern. Their disclosure would not constitute an invasion of personal privacy. The respondent violated C.G.S. §1-210(a) by failing to disclose the records. The respondent was directed to provide a free copy to the complainants forthwith and, henceforth, to comply with the disclosure requirements of C.G.S. §1-210 and §1-212.