Connecticut Freedom of Information Act

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The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Connecticut. The law was first enacted in 1975.

The Connecticut Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

Statutes 1-200 through 1-259 define these transparency laws.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see Connecticut FOIA procedures.

Transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked Connecticut #14 in the nation with an overall percentage of 57.40%.[1]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave Connecticut 53 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 18 out of the 50 states.[2]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked Connecticut's law as the 17th best in the country, giving it a letter grade of "C."[3]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

The Connecticut Freedom of Information Act does not contain a declared legal intention or statement of purpose.

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

"Public records or files" means any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, or to which a public agency is entitled to receive a copy by law or contract under section 1-218, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method" (Chapter 14, section 1-200).[4]

Exemptions

Exemptions to open records include:

  • Preliminary drafts or notes whose disclosure does not outweigh the public benefit of withholding them
  • "Personnel or medical files and similar files the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of personal privacy" (see section 14.1-210.2)[4]
  • Records of law enforcement agencies which are still currently in pre-trial or trial phase or which would place victims or culprits in danger.
  • Strategy or negotiation concerning pending litigation.
  • Trade Secrets
  • Financial information, freely given and not required by statute
  • Licensing tests and statements of personal worth.
  • Collective bargaining records and reports.
  • Personal information including names and addresses of students enrolled in any school
  • Adoption records
  • Petitions
  • Records of complaints
  • Any information that would jeopardize security at corrections facilities, infrastructure, telecommunications or the security of any individuals
  • Home addresses of anyone within the Address Confidentiality Program

[4]

Deliberative process
See also: Deliberative process exemption in Connecticut

Connecticut has a legislatively adopted exemption for working papers, with the intention of protecting the free flow of information and opinions. The exemption covers all levels of government, including the executive, legislative, judicial and even local government.

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

The FOIA covers almost all political bodies and institutions within Connecticut, including committees, employees and all governmental departments. The exemptions include the Division of Criminal justice and any committee composed of individuals who are outside of the government, which, through petition, has been declared exempt by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (see section 14.1-201 and 1.202).[4]

Legislature

See also: Legislatures and transparency

The Connecticut State Legislature is subject to the provisions of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act according to Connecticut General Statutes 14.1-200.

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars in Connecticut

Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOIC established that a private entity must:

  1. perform a public function
  2. receive public funding
  3. be controlled or managed by a public entity
  4. be created by a governmental entity

In order to be considered a public body and be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. This presumption was confirmed in Polman v. UConn School of Law, which held that the University of Connecticut School of Law was a public body. Names and addresses of students are explicitly exempted.[4][5]

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

According to Connecticut law, anyone may request public records (see section 14.1-210).[4]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

There is nothing in Connecticut law that requires a purpose to be stated.

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

There is nothing within the law that restricts the use of open records.

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

The allotted response time for Connecticut open records requests is four days.

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

Connecticut allows for charging fees, which include duplication fees . Fees may be exempted if it is deemed that the person making the request cannot afford them, if the request is made in the interest of the general welfare or if the person making the request is an elected public official requesting the information on behalf of his/her office (Connecticut FOIA 1-212.d).[4]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

Connecticut allows for charging fees which include the cost of employee time in searching for the requested documents.[4]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

There is currently no provision within the state open records law that empowers the State Department of Law to enforce the right of the public to access governmental records.

Records commissions and ombudsmen

See also: State records commissions

The Connecticut public records law also requires there to be a Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission. This commission consists of five members appointed by the Governor, paid $200 per day that they take part in commission hearings or other duties.

The Commission's primary responsibility is to review allegations of FOIA violations, and to issue orders pertaining to them.

The CT FOIC saw more than 800 complaints in 2008, up from only 716 in 2007, making 2008 the busiest year since the commission's formation.[6]

Open meetings

"The meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, as defined in subdivision (6) of section 1-200, shall be open to the public. The votes of each member of any such public agency upon any issue before such public agency shall be reduced to writing and made available for public inspection within forty-eight hours and shall also be recorded in the minutes of the session at which taken, which minutes shall be available for public inspection within seven days of the session to which they refer."[7]

See also

External links

References

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA

Here is a list of lawsuits in Connecticut (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).

Lawsuit Year
Board of Trustees of Woodstock Academy v. FOIC 1980
Coalition to Save Horsebarn Hill v. FOIC 2002
Connecticut Humane Society v. FOIC 1991
Domestic Violence Services. v. FOIC 1998
Hallas v. FOIC 1989
Lieberman v. State Board of Labor Relations 1990
Shew v. FOIC 1998
Valvo v. Freedom of Information Commission 2010
Wilson v. Freedom of Information Commission 1980