Chris Powell: Southbury defies FOI

By Chris Powell

Read full column here.

For almost 50 years Connecticut has had a pretty good freedom-of-information law and a state commission to enforce it subject to judicial review. Many FOI precedents have been firmly established. But some municipal elected officials defy the law anyway and get away with it until a complaint is adjudicated, since that can take years, fines for violations are small, and fines are seldom imposed no matter how great the contempt shown by the violator.

One of those officials is Southbury First Selectman Jeffrey A. Manville.

A political adversary, former Selectman John Diehl, has asked Manville for access to the personnel files of town employees and particularly to letters of resignation so he can evaluate Manville’s management ability and confirm high turnover among town staffers. Manville is refusing to comply though the law makes public nearly all material in municipal employee files.

Manville says, “I don’t know what can and can’t be released, but there are a lot of employees who are expressing concern” that Diehl’s request could make their personnel files public.

But those files are already public, and if, as he says, Manville really doesn’t know, he needs only to ask someone who does, like the town attorney or the FOI Commission. Instead Manville will break the law to delay what might be bad publicity for himself.

Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. (