CONNECTICUT — The city of Hartford must give the Hartford Courant copies of applications it reviewed in promoting 13 current and former Public Works Department employees, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in mid-January.
The state rejected the city’s claim that release of the applications would invade personal privacy after the newspaper agreed to accept the applications with home addresses, telephone numbers and salary information deleted.
When reporter Steve Kemper first asked for the records in July 1991, the city told the employees they could object to release. When they did, the city refused to give the records to Kemper.
The newspaper filed a complaint with the state’s Freedom of Information Commission in August 1991 and the commission ordered the records released. The employees sued, asking the court to order the agency to withhold the records. But in November 1992 the Superior Court in Hartford ruled that the employees’ privacy would not be invaded by release of the records. The employees then appealed to the state’s high court.
Quoting from a recent case, the high court held that the invasion of personal privacy exemption to Connecticut’s open records law only applies when requested information does not pertain to legitimate matters of public concern and is highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Disclosure would be an exception and not the rule if government employees had the authority, at will, to stop public access to their personnel files, the court said. To invoke the privacy exemption, the agency instead must find that a reasonable person would find the disclosure highly offensive.
“No public agency can shield public records from disclosure, merely by agreeing to keep such records confidential,” the court wrote.
(Kurecszka v. Freedom of Information Commission; FOIC Counsel: Catherine Wassel- Nasto, Hartford)
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