CCFOI Meeting Minutes – June 21, 2023

Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Annual Meeting Minutes, June 21, 2023

The meeting was at the home of Mitch Pearlman in Glastonbury.

Present: Mike Savino, Tom Scheffey, Mary Connolly, Jacky Smith, Michele Jacklin, Jeff Daniels, Paula Pearlman, Chris Powell, Karen Florin, Mitch Pearlman.

The minutes for the June 12, 2023 monthly meeting were accepted.

Treasurer’s report: Smith reported a balance of $16,487.35.

Elections: The slate of officers recommended by the Governance Committee was unanimously elected. They are: Mike Savino as president, Tom Scheffey as vice president, Jacky Smith as treasurer, Mary Connolly as secretary, Jeff Daniels as legislative co-chair, Michele Jacklin as legislative co-chair. Directors are Mitch Pearlman, Chris Powell, Steve Nevas, David DesRoches, Karen Florin and Jodie Mozdzer Gil.

Plans for a September event: The traditional June annual meeting this year was redesigned as a retreat to discuss CCFOI’s future plans. The awards traditionally announced at the June annual meeting will be awarded at a September event. It was agreed Sept. 20, a Wednesday, will be the target date for the event. A committee of Jacky Smith and Jodi Mozdzer Gil were appointed to plan the event. Award winners: Two state senators were chosen for the Bice Clemow Award, given each year to nonjournalists who show leadership in supporting government transparency. State Sen. James Maroney of Milford was chosen for his work to ensure transparency on artificial intelligence issues. State Sen. Cathy Osten of Sprague was chosen for her work to increase funding for the Freedom of Information
Commission so it can handle FOI complaints in a timely fashion.

Kelsey Eberly was chosen to receive a Champion of Open Government award. As an Abrams Fellow with Yale University’s Media Freedom and Information Access clinic, she worked with CCFOI on the state’s new artificial intelligence law to ensure transparency as AI is used in making public policy decisions. Reporters from Hearst Connecticut Media Group were selected to receive the Stephen A. Collins award, given each year to outstanding work by journalists. The reporters are Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, Joshua
Eaton and Brian Lockhart. They reported on Bridgeport’s failure to properly handle FOI requests, creating a backlog of 2,000 FOI requests. In response to their reporting, the legislature increased the maximum fine imposed on government agencies for violating the FOIA.

Paula Pearlman was chosen for a Champion of Open Government award. She is managing director and associate general counsel for the Freedom of Information Commission. Her expertise has been invaluable to the CCFOI and the cause of government accountability when legislative proposals are made that would undermine the public’s right to know the public’s business.

CCFOI bylaws: The proposed draft, presented by Mitch Pearlman, was adopted, with some corrections.

Lobbying strategy: It was agreed Liz Gemski did a great job during the legislative session. We will continue efforts to anticipate problem proposals, such as an FOI exemption for university researchers. CCFOI website: We discussed the website, which needs to be routinely updated. Scheffey will contact a potential website consultant and report back to us.

Branding: There was discussion of a twice-a-year newsletter at the start and finish of the legislative session.

Recruitment: We must do a better job of recruiting new board members. It is difficult to recruit young people who have so many demands on their time. We will reach out to contributors for suggestions for board members.

Looking ahead: The next monthly meeting will be Oct. 18 at 9 a.m., via Zoom.