CCFOI Meeting Minutes – April 20, 2016

Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Minutes, April 20, 2016

The meeting was at Wood-n-Tap, 99 Sisson Ave., Hartford.

Present: Jim Smith, Dick Ahles, Chris Powell, Mitch Pearlman, Gary Gold, Dana Whalen, Colleen Murphy, Jeff Daniels, Marc Fitch, Paula Pearlman, Michele Jacklin, Zach Janowski, Mary Connolly, Dan Klau.

The minutes of the Feb. 17, 2016 meeting were accepted. There was no meeting in March.

Treasurer’s report: Our balance is $13,593.

Legislative report: Klau discussed continuing efforts to change state law on the secrecy of historical records. This started with an inquiry about the mental health records of Civil War soldiers that are held by the state. In the last hours of the 2011 legislative session, the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services was able to get language inserted into a funding bill to keep such records secret. Mental health advocates say people won’t seek help if records are not kept confidential forever. There is even opposition to releasing the records of Amy Archer Gilligan, a mass murderer, who died in 1962. She was the inspiration for Arsenic and Old Lace.

The proposal to transform CTN into a C-SPAN-model public network supported by cable subscribers has run into trouble. The cable industry hired many lobbyists to fight this, fearing the idea would spread beyond Connecticut and CTN. The legislation has been revised to create the network by statute but without any fee imposed. It would still be funded by state government.

It appears the Office of Governmental Accountability, imposed on the Freedom of Information Commission and other watchdog agencies to save money, will no longer be with us. It never saved money, restricted the independence of the agencies, and its executive directors kept creating unnecessary disputes.

Annual meeting: The meeting is expected to be June 15, but the location has not been determined. Nominations for our annual awards should be emailed to Smith. The Bice Clemow award honors a non-journalist. The Stephen A. Collins award goes to a journalist. Champion of Open Government awards go to anyone who has contributed to the cause of open government.

Looking ahead: The next CCFOI meeting will be May 18 at noon at Wood-n-Tap.