White v. City Attorney, Office of City Attorney, City of Bridgeport
In the 1998 case of Shew v. Freedom of Information Commission, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that a report created by an attorney retained to conduct an investigation was exempt from mandatory public disclosure based upon that portion of Connecticut General Statutes §1-210(b)(10), that recites the attorney-client privilege. Thomas White appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission alleging that Bridgeport's city attorney and the Office of the City Attorney violated the Freedom of Information Act by failing to comply with his request for records regarding a letter from Attorney Michel Bayonne to Attorney Thomas Bucci of Sept. 14, 2010. The FOIC found that the complainant, employed as Bridgeport's legislative services director, received the Sept. 14, 2010 letter informing him that the city council intended to terminate his employment for cause, but offered to permit him to resign. The respondents hired a law firm for legal advice concerning the intended dismissal. Bayonne prepared a written legal opinion and investigation report. The respondents claimed that both the opinion and report were exempt from disclosure under C.G.S. §1-210(b)(10). Following an in camera inspection, the FOIC found that the opinion and report were attorney-client privileged communications within the meaning of C.G.S. §1-210(b)(10) and were exempt from disclosure. As in Shew, the report was created by an attorney, Bayonne, in furtherance of the legal advice requested. Bayonne was acting in his professional capacity as an attorney for the respondents. The communications contained in the report were made by Bayonne to the city council members, related to the legal advice sought and were made in confidence. The respondents provided the complainant with some emails and a memorandum. The complainant insisted that additional responsive records existed. Although the respondents' counsel represented that a search for responsive records was conducted, no witness testified as to the nature and scope of any such search. Given an exchange recited in an exhibit, the FOIC was unconvinced that a search for responsive emails was conducted. The FOIC concluded that the respondents violated the disclosure provisions of C.G.S. §1-210(a) and §1-212(a) and ordered a search performed. The respondents were directed to strictly comply, henceforth, with the violated provisions.