CCFOI Meeting Minutes – Oct. 19, 2016

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

Present: Dan Klau, Dan Barrett, Jeff Daniels, Dana Whalen, Michael Ryan, Zach Janowski, John Bailey, George Lombardi, Tom Hennick, Mary Connolly, Steve Nevas, Mitch Pearlman, Gary Gold, Chris Powell, Dick Ahles, Morgan McGinley, Tom Scheffey.

The minutes of the Sept. 21, 2016 meeting were accepted.

Treasurer’s report: Lombardi reported a balance of $6,303.23, down from the $11,067.09 balance at the start of the fiscal year in July. He said some bills have been paid and dues notices have not yet gone out.

FOI pledge: Klau said the final version of the pledge will soon be sent to legislative candidates. A press release also will be distributed to let local reporters know about the issue.

Bailey asked CCFOI members to be in touch with their local legislators on FOI issues.

Legislative update: Daniels said there are ongoing discussions regarding the budget independence of Connecticut’s watchdog agencies – Freedom of Information Commission, Office of State Ethics and State Election and Enforcement Commission. A 2004 law, adopted in response to Gov. John Rowland’s actions, limits the governor’s discretionary authority to cut the  budgets of those agencies. In August, the Office of Policy and Management announced it no longer felt bound by that law.

ACLU projects: Dan Barrett, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, discussed some current projects. There is an ongoing survey of police departments to catalog the technology they use, such as drones. Barrett said Bridgeport police insist this is a homeland security issue and the information should be confidential. The ACLU also is gathering information on lawsuits filed against police officers and how they were resolved. In addition, the ACLU is pulling together information on the use of Tasers, which is reported once a year to the state.

FOI education: Pearlman reported on the efforts of CCFOI, CFOG, ACLU and SPJ to create an educational program for high school and college students on the concept of freedom of expression. The kick-off date is Sunshine Week, March 12-18, 2017. Teams of presenters will be trained to speak at schools and colleges.

Lobbying contract: The CCFOI contract with TCORS Capitol Group is up for renewal. There has been discussion of inviting bids from TCORS and other lobbying groups, not because of dissatisfaction with Bailey and TCORS but because of CCFOI finances. Unsolicited, TCORS offered to cut its annual fee from the current $10,000 to $7,500 for the next two years. There was discussion of the offer and praise for the work done by Bailey. There was a motion to accept the TCORS offer. It was unanimously approved.

Anti-SLAPP efforts: Mike Ryan, president of the Connecticut Broadcasters Association, thanked CCFOI for its support of CBA’s efforts against SLAPP lawsuits. They are used by corporations and others to intimidate critics who publicly question their activities. Ryan said CBA is trying to build a coalition and come up with a bill to propose to the 2017 legislative session.

Looking ahead: The next CCFOI meeting will be Nov. 16 at noon at Wood-n-Tap.