PA 12-3—HB 5303

Emergency Certification

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

SUMMARY: Prior law prohibited any state or municipal public agency from disclosing, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the home addresses of certain public officials and employees (see BACKGROUND for covered individuals). This act narrows the 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 automatically keep his or her residential address confidential in certain documents.

It allows a covered individual to request address confidentiality from public agencies other than his or her employer and establishes procedures for these agencies to follow when receiving a FOIA request for certain records containing that individual's home address.

The act 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 a willful and knowing violation. It requires the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee to establish an advisory committee to study possible alternatives to disclosing certain public records without redaction.

Lastly, the act requires the Labor Department to create, within available appropriations, a guide that instructs covered individuals on how to exercise their rights under the act and protect their home addresses from disclosure. The department must create the guide within 60 days after the act's passage (by May 5, 2012) and post it on its website.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except the provisions (1) limiting the automatic 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 HOME ADDRESSES

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

Beginning June 1, 2012, the act further limits the automatic prohibition on disclosure of home addresses to personnel, medical, or similar files held by a covered individual's employing agency only. Because federal officials and employees are protected under the law, the legal effect of this provision is unclear with respect to them, since the state has no jurisdiction over federal agencies.

Under the act, covered individuals who want an agency other than their employing agency to keep their home 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. For such an individual, a non-employing agency must redact his or her home address only from (1) records provided in response to a request that specifically names the covered individual, (2) an existing list derived from a readily accessible electronic database, and (3) any list that the agency voluntarily creates in response to a request for disclosure. The act allows disclosure of a covered individual's residential address in any other type of record.

Table 1 describes the act's procedures for public agencies to follow when receiving a FOIA request for records containing the home address of a covered individual who has submitted a nondisclosure request.

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

Type of Request

Required Response

One that specifically names a covered individual

Agency must make a copy of the record and redact the covered individual's 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 any covered individual's address before disclosing the list

The act 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 act, 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 complaints 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 and knowing violation. If the FOIC finds a willful and knowing violation, it may impose a civil penalty of between $20 and $1,000 against the agency, official, or employee.

The act prohibits an individual from suing a public agency or its officials or employees for violating the disclosure prohibition.

ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The act 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 an unspecified number of advisory committee members and designate two of them as the chairpersons.

The act 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. Freedom of Information Commission

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' home 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

The following public officials and employees are covered by the home address disclosure prohibition (CGS 1-217):

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 in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection;

4. employees of the Judicial Branch and the departments of Correction and Children and Families;

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. members and employees of the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities; and

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

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