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Decision No. 751

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April 27 1995
In Re: Confidentiality Requirements in Par. 454.

Digest of Case

Once a signed grievance is filed, both it and all related documents become the property of the Annual Conference. The entire process must be handled in conformity with Pars. 706 and 2626.3(e) of the 1992 Discipline which require confidentiality.

Statement of Facts

At the 1994 session of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference the Board of Ordained Ministry recommended that a request be made to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision on "procedures of confidentiality relative to Book of Discipline Par. 454." It was so voted. The final sentence of the motion before the Annual Conference states "The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference requests clarification on the confidentiality of a grievance and complaint through all stages of supervision, mediation, and recommendation." JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under Par. 2616 of the 1992 Discipline. ANALYSIS Par. 454 of the 1992 Discipline sets forth the procedures for initiating and handling a grievance "about the performance or character of a clergyperson." The word confidentiality does not appear in Par 454.1(a) or (b), but is a part of Par. 454.1(c). We may not presume to say that the General Conference made a deliberate decision to exclude confidentiality in (a) or (b). There is no record to support such a conclusion. Indeed, when Par. 454 is read in conjunction with Par. 513, 706, 733, 821, and 2626, it is clear that the General Conference had every intention of protecting the confidentiality of all documents dealing with personnel matters involving clergy and laity. Par. 706.9 relates directly to this question. "All (emphasis added) records of candidates and ordained and diaconal ministry personnel maintained by the conference secretary, ... are to be kept on behalf of the Annual Conference. . . . " This paragraph further states that the Annual Conference is the owner of its personnel records and files. The confidentiality of these records is obvious from a reading of the entire paragraph which carefully delineates who may have access to these records and under what conditions. Once a grievance is initiated, it becomes the property of the Annual Conference and should not be disseminated by any individuals having access to it.

Decision

Once a signed grievance is filed, both it and all related documents become the property of the Annual Conference. The entire process must be handled in conformity with Pars. 706 and 2626.3(e) of the 1992 Discipline which require confidentiality.

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