What We Do

Bill Asks Local Officials To Be Both Seen and Heard – CT News Junkie

By Christine Stuart

Similar to what lawmakers have been trying to practice this session, some lawmakers want local boards and commission members to show their faces when talking and voting remotely.

The bill, which passed the Planning & Development Committee, last week would require boards of selectmen, city councils, boards of representatives, local and regional boards of education, zoning commissions and other local bodies to show their faces on Zoom when talking and voting. (Read More)

Editorial: FOI bill is Democrats against democracy – Waterbury Republican-American


When it comes to fights over public education – from removing pornography from school libraries to ensuring racial essentialism isn’t laundered into school curricula through “equity” initiatives – the actual question is whether publicly funded educational institutions should be subject to public control. In other words, it’s a question of whether American leaders value democracy.

This is true at the college level, too. Indeed, public colleges in Connecticut receive so much money that they’re apoplectic over Gov. Ned Lamont including nearly $900 million in his recent two-year budget proposal. That amount of money, college leaders and students say, is unacceptably low.

But despite the fact that these institutions would not exist without massive appropriations of public money, some state leaders don’t think public universities should be accountable to the public. (Read More)

House approves bill creating panel to study mandatory public comment periods – The Day, New London

By Brian Hallenbeck

May 5—Connecticut’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill this week that would establish a task force to study requiring public comment periods at meetings of all public agencies.

The bill will move to the Senate for consideration.

The measure originated in response to a policy in effect in Groton, where public comment is allowed during monthly Town Council meetings but not at twice-a-month meetings at which the council convenes as Committee of the Whole. (Read More)

Freedom of Information Under Threat in Connecticut – Law.com

By Connecticut Law Tribune Editorial Board

This started out as a great year for Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, but now it’s in trouble.

In February, investigative reporters at Hearst Media produced a powerful series detailing Bridgeport’s shocking record of non-compliance with FOIA requests. Bridgeport’s delinquency led to a chronic backlog of 2,000 pending cases, mostly due to its practice of funneling the vast majority of cases through a woefully understaffed city attorney’s office. (Read More)

CT Viewpoints: Stop CT’s attack on its own accountability and transparency – CT Mirror

By Justin Goodman

Shame on Connecticut legislators for advancing a misguided bill (SB 1153) to exempt the University of Connecticut and other state institutions from the open records law and keep their taxpayer-funded activities in the dark.

Shortly after I arrived as a student at UConn in 2004, I used Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act to expose how the school was performing wasteful and cruel experiments on monkeys. In these taxpayer-funded tests, the primates had holes drilled into their skulls, their brains damaged with acid, and steel coils implanted into their eyeballs before being killed and dissected. (Read More)

Bridgeport’s attempt to comply with transparency law may not be legal, experts say – Connecticut Post

By Brian Lockhart, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, and Joshua Eaton

BRIDGEPORT — In an effort to comply with a state transparency law it has long flouted, Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration is taking a controversial approach to reduce its massive backlog of pending requests for public records, raising concerns among state officials and First Amendment advocates.
As it wades through nearly 3,000 unfulfilled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Bridgeport’s law department has sent notices asking requestors who have been waiting at least six months for a response to let the department know if they still want the documents.
The notices say that if the law department does not hear back within 30 days, it will cancel the request, closing it out without providing the records sought. (Read More)

Michele Jacklin: Nix these new restraints on Connecticut’s FOI Act – Connecticut Mirror

By Michele Jacklin

The silence has been deafening. Curiously so. As state lawmakers continue to hack away at Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, the response from members of the public and the news media has been confounding passivity.
The curtain is threatening to come down on the state’s groundbreaking law, enacted in 1975, which opened up the inner workings of government — state and municipal — for all to see. The state’s FOIA became the model upon which other states and nations promoted public access and government transparency.
But now Connecticut’s law is in grave danger. Where once there were five explicit exemptions to the FOIA there are now 28 and counting. At least a half-dozen anti-FOIA bills have been approved by legislative committees and are due to be voted upon by the House and the Senate. (Read More)

David Collins: New London to fight FOI Commission’s order to release police body cam video – The Day, New London

By David Collins

At about the same time New London began to dig in its heels over my body cam footage request, Stonington announced it had assigned a staff member to manage and comply with body cam video requests, with no labor charges.
There is a bill pending in the General Assembly, supported by the state police chiefs association, but opposed by the state FOI Commission and the American Civil Liberties Union, that would allow police departments to charge some processing fees. (Read More)

Shedding Light on Algorithms: Civil Rights Advocates and Lawmakers Call for Changes to Connecticut’s FOI Laws to Address AI Bias Concerns – CT News Junkie

By Hugh McQuaid

Civil rights advocates and a group of lawmakers called Tuesday for changes to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws in order to shed more light on the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence by state agencies.

Legislators and university professors joined members of the Connecticut Advisory Committee To U.S. Commission on Civil Rights during a morning press conference to release the committee’s report on the civil rights implications of algorithm use by state government. (Read More)

For a new Connecticut reporter, public records seem within reach – Connecticut Public Radio

By Katie Seltzer

I was recently asked if I had ever filed a Freedom of Information appeal. Sure, I said. Many times.

What I meant was that I had filed a Freedom of Information records request and had been denied, and then I objected to that denial. The public information officer might say something like “the records you have requested are exempt from public disclosure based on this statute.” And then I would respond and say something like “I disagree with your interpretation of how that exemption is applied. So do the courts; see this case for further information about why I’m right and you must give me access to those public records.” I’m more polite in my actual appeals, of course, but what’s important is that I’ve filed appeals with agencies directly. Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t, and then the only recourse is to sue, which can be costly and time-consuming. (Read More)