COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY et al. v. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al., SC 18617;

ASSESSOR, TOWN OF NORTH STONINGTON et al. v. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al., SC 18618;

STATE OF CONNECTICUT, JUDICIAL BRANCH v. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al., SC 18619;

AFSCME, COUNCIL 4, LOCALS 387, 391 AND 1565 v. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION et al., SC 18620

Judicial District of New Britain

 

      Freedom of Information Act; Whether Tax Assessor must Disclose File Used in Preparing Town's Grand List Without First Redacting Residential Addresses of Persons Protected Under General Statutes § 1-217.  In June of 2008, Peter Sachs requested that the tax assessor of the town of North Stonington provide him with an exact electronic copy of the file given to the assessor by the department of motor vehicles in accordance with General Statutes § 14-163 for use by the assessor in preparing the town's grand list.  Pursuant to § 14-163, the department of motor vehicles is required to give each assessor a list identifying the motor vehicles, as well as the names and addresses of the owners of the motor vehicles, that are subject to property taxation in the assessor's town.  The assessor informed Sachs that he would not disclose the file without first removing the addresses of persons protected under General Statutes § 1-217.  Section 1-217 prohibits public agencies from disclosing the residential addresses of certain government employees.  Sachs filed a complaint with the freedom of information commission, alleging that the assessor's refusal to disclose the unredacted file violated the freedom of information act.  The commission granted intervenor status to the commissioner of public safety, the state judicial branch, the commissioner of correction, the commissioner of children and families, and AFSCME, Council 4, Locals 387, 391 and 1565.  In its decision, the commission first noted that General Statutes § 12-55 explicitly requires an assessor to publish the grand list for the assessor's town and make it available for public inspection and that nothing in the statute permits redactions.  The commission then found that the names and addresses of the people whose property comprises the grand list are necessary and integral to the completeness and accuracy of the grand list and that any redaction to the grand list would contravene well-settled public policy and case law establishing that tax rolls are to be accurate, complete and accessible for public inspection.  The commission further found that, had the legislature intended, in enacting § 1-217, to conceal the residential addresses contained in grand lists and similar records that are required by statute to be open for public inspection, it would have done so explicitly.  As a result, the commission concluded that § 1-217 does not exempt from disclosure residential addresses when they are part of grand lists and ordered the assessor to provide Sachs with an exact electronic copy of the file.  The town, its assessor and the intervenors appealed to the Superior Court, which affirmed the commission's decision.  In this appeal from the trial court's decision, the Supreme Court is presented with the issue of whether the trial court properly upheld the commission's order that the assessor disclose the file to Sachs without first redacting the residential addresses of persons protected by General Statutes § 1-217.