OLR Bill Analysis

HB 5303

Emergency Certification

AN ACT CONCERNING THE EXEMPTION FROM DISCLOSURE OF CERTAIN ADDRESSES UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT.

SUMMARY:

Current law prohibits any state or municipal public agency from disclosing, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the residential addresses of certain public officials and employees (see BACKGROUND for covered individuals). This bill narrows this prohibition. Specifically, it (1) permits certain municipal and election-related documents to be disclosed without address redactions and (2) limits to a covered individual's employing agency, instead of all public agencies, the requirement to keep his or her residential address confidential in certain documents. It allows a covered individual to request address confidentiality from other public agencies and establishes procedures for public agencies to follow when receiving a FOIA request for records containing such a person's residential address.

The bill prohibits public agencies, public officials, or employees of public agencies from being penalized for violating the disclosure prohibition unless the Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) finds that the violation was willful and knowing. It requires the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee to establish an advisory committee to study whether there are alternatives to disclosing certain public records without redaction.

Lastly, the bill requires the Labor Department to create, within available appropriations, a guide that instructs covered individuals on how to exercise their rights under the bill and protect their addresses from disclosure. The department must create the guide within 60 days of the act's passage and post it on its website.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except the provisions (1) limiting the disclosure prohibition to the employing agency, (2) authorizing nondisclosure requests to non-employing agencies, and (3) establishing procedures for non-employing agencies to follow are effective June 1, 2012.

DISCLOSURE OF RESIDENTIAL ADDRESSES

Under current law, state or municipal agencies receiving requests for public documents containing covered individuals' residential addresses must redact the addresses before disclosing the documents. Under the bill, the disclosure prohibition does not apply to residential addresses of covered individuals contained in (1) documents eligible to be recorded in municipal land records, (2) any list required by state laws governing elections (e. g. , preliminary and final voter registry lists, petition forms, logs of absentee ballot applications), and (3) municipal grand lists.

Beginning June 1, 2012, the bill limits the prohibition on disclosure of residential addresses to personnel, medical, or similar files held by a covered individual's employing agency only. Because federal officials and employees are included in those protected under the law, the legal effect of this provision is unclear with respect to them.

Covered individuals who want agencies other than their employing agency to keep their addresses confidential must submit a written request to that agency. An individual submitting such a request must provide the public agency with his or her business address.

The bill establishes procedures (described in Table 1) for public agencies to follow when receiving a FOIA request for records containing the residential address of a covered individual who has submitted a nondisclosure request. Generally, except for the records described above, an agency must make a reasonable effort to redact a covered individual's address before providing the record.

Table 1: Responding to Requests for Residential Addresses of Covered Individuals Who Have Submitted Nondisclosure Requests

Type of Request

Required Response

For a record that specifically names a covered individual

Agency must make a copy of the record and redact the address prior to disclosure

For (1) an existing list derived from a readily accessible electronic database or (2) any list that the agency voluntarily creates in response to a request for disclosure

Agency must make a reasonable effort to redact a covered individual's address before disclosing the list

The bill prohibits public agencies, public officials, or employees of public agencies from being penalized for violating the disclosure prohibition unless the FOIC finds that the violation was willful and knowing. Under the bill, complaints of such violations must be made to the FOIC.

The FOIC must hold a hearing in accordance with the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act for any complaint that it receives. However, it may dismiss a complaint without a hearing if, after examining it and construing all allegations most favorably to the complainant, it finds that there was not a willful or knowing violation. If the FOIC finds a willful or knowing violation, it may impose a civil penalty of between $ 20 and $ 1,000 on the agency, official, or employee.

The bill prohibits an individual from suing a public agency official or employee for violating the disclosure prohibition.

ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The bill requires the GAE Committee to establish an advisory committee to study whether there are alternatives to permitting the disclosure of certain public records without redaction. The chairpersons of the GAE Committee must appoint the members of the advisory committee and designate two of the appointees as the advisory committee's chairpersons. The bill does not specify the advisory committee's size.

The bill requires the GAE Committee's administrative staff to serve as the advisory committee's administrative staff. The advisory committee must submit its findings and recommendations to the GAE, Planning and Development, and Public Safety committees by January 1, 2013. The advisory committee terminates when it submits its report or on January 1, 2013, whichever is later.

BACKGROUND

Commissioner of Public Safety v. FOIC

In Commissioner of Public Safety v. Freedom of Information Commission, 301 Conn. 323 (2011), the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the prohibition against disclosing certain individuals' residential addresses applies to motor vehicle grand lists and their component data that the Department of Motor Vehicles provides to town assessors.

Individuals Covered by CGS 1-217

CGS 1-217 protects from disclosure under FOIA the residential addresses of the following public officials and employees:

1. federal court judges and magistrates;

2. Connecticut Superior and Appellate Court judges, Supreme Court justices, and family support magistrates;

3. sworn members of municipal police departments or the State Police and sworn law enforcement officers within the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection;

4. Department of Correction employees;

5. attorneys who represent or have represented the state in a criminal prosecution;

6. attorneys who are or have been employed by the Public Defender Services Division and social workers employed by the division;

7. Division of Criminal Justice inspectors;

8. firefighters;

9. Department of Children and Families employees;

10. Board of Pardons and Paroles members and employees;

11. Judicial Branch employees;

12. Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services employees who provide direct patient care; and

13. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities members and employees.