Burgin v. Chief, Police Department, Town of East Hampton
In the 2001 case of Rocque v. Freedom of Information Commission, the Supreme Court held that the identity of a sexual harassment complainant and sexually explicit information were exempt from disclosure under the privacy exemption in C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2). Hardie Burgin appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that the East Hampton police department and its chief violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his records request concerning the discipline of Sergeant Garritt Kelly for misuse of the email system. The respondents contended that the emails did not pertain to the public's business and were not public records. The FOIC found that Kelly used town equipment while working to communicate on his private email account. The records revealed an inappropriate mixing of the officer's professional and private life. The records were found to relate to the officer's public position and constituted "public records" under C.G.S. §1-200(5) and §1-210(a). The respondents disclosed certain records, such as a settlement agreement, and informed the complainant that approximately 84 email communications were concerned. Kelly objected to their disclosure but did not appear. The respondents claimed that the withheld records were exempt from disclosure under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2) and Rocque v. FOIC. The FOIC reviewed the contested records in camera and found that they were "personnel" or "similar files" under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2). The complainant agreed to certain names and email addresses being redacted from the records. Some records were found to contain the kind of sexually explicit information that concerned the Rocque court. This information was found exempt from disclosure. The remainder of the records contained information which triggered an internal affairs investigation. Such information would facilitate the public's understanding of what occurred and permit a more thorough evaluation of the town's investigation and handling of an important matter involving a public employee. Such records pertained to legitimate matters of public concern. Their disclosure would not be highly offensive to a reasonable person. Such records were not exempt under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(2). The respondents violated the disclosure provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a) by denying the request for these records and were directed to provide a free copy with exempt information redacted.