Police Dept. Not Entitled to Privacy Amid Sex Harassment Investigation

by on Nov. 29, 2017

Employment Sexual Harassment Employment  Employee Rights 

Summary: A blog post about a sex harassment investigation that was conducted on the Police Department of the Town of East Haven.

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Records concerning a claim of sexual harassment by one police officer against another were not exempt from disclosure as an invasion of personal privacy under the 1993 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Perkins v. Freedom of Information Commission.

The complainants, Dan Uhlinger and the Hartford Courant, requested that the respondents, the Police Department of the Town of East Hartford, and its chief, provide them with copies of records concerning an internal affairs investigation related to Lieutenant Lisa Freeman and Officer Jay Malley. Several officers including Freeman and Malley objected to the disclosure. The respondents provided the complainants with copies of an internal investigation report and supporting documents both of which were heavily redacted. The complainants appealed to the Freedom of Information Commission which reviewed the contested records in camera. Certain records containing the residential addresses of the police officers were permissibly exempt from mandatory disclosure under C.G.S. 1-217(2). Other records constituted personnel, medical or similar files within the meaning of C.G.S. 1-210(b)(2) and contained information regarding a sexual harassment complaint led by one police officer against another officer. Applying the two pronged Perkins test, the FOIC found that while the disclosure of some of the redacted information would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, the records pertained to legitimate matters of public concern, those being the conduct of police officers, as well as the thoroughness and fairness of the respondents’ investigation into a serious allegation. Therefore, the information was not exempt under C.G.S. 1-210(b)(2). Following the internal investigation, a criminal investigation ensued. Certain records were found exempt from mandatory disclosure pursuant to C.G.S. 1-210(b)(3)(B) as signed statements of witnesses and records of a law enforcement agency not otherwise available to the public that were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime. The respondents did not violate the FOIA by failing to provide the exempt records. The respondents did violate the disclosure provisions of C.G.S. 1-210(a) and 1-212(a) by denying the complainants the non-exempt records. The respondents were directed to provide the complainants with a copy of the requested records free of charge with the exception of those records found exempt.

If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.

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Source: Freedom of Information Commission, Sexual Harassment Records Were Not Exempt On Privacy Grounds, 34 Conn. Law Trib. 44 at 21 (Nov. 3, 2008)

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