Restore public access to public hearings – Statement by CCFOI

June 4, 2018
Zachary Janowski
Michele Jacklin
Jeff Daniels

HARTFORD – The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information (CCFOI) today criticized General Assembly leaders for abandoning the long-held practice of transcribing public hearing testimony, further eroding the public’s ability to know what is happening at the State Capitol and continuing legislative efforts to close the window on government transparency.

To the surprise of many, the vast majority of transcripts from public hearings held during the recently adjourned 2018 legislative session are not available. Officials from the Office of Legislative Management and the House and Senate say that transcription services have fallen victim to budget cuts, with the elimination of the service expected to save about $100,000 annually. The decision apparently was made without public input and has been condemned by open-government advocates.

“Public hearings provide the first glimpse of the impetus for proposed legislation, what the relevant tensions and concerns are and the initial impressions of legislators considering them. As such, public hearing transcripts, which preserve the dialog and lines of inquiry, are a valuable component of legislative history and serve an important historical and archival function,” said Colleen Murphy, executive director of the state Freedom of Information Commission.

Most bills, including spending and tax proposals, are subject to public hearings at which state officials, special interests, lawmakers and, most importantly, citizens are able to voice their opinions. Although written testimony will continue to be available online, the give-and-take between committee members and those testifying will no longer be transcribed. The answers and commentary provided by lawmakers are often used to ascertain legislative intent. Moreover, not everyone who testifies provides written copies.

Murphy was a member of a task force that met in 2010 and was charged with making recommendations regarding the conversion of legislative records from paper to electronic form. According to the group’s final report, “the task force was presented with an overwhelming amount of testimony opposing elimination of public hearing transcriptions.”

Among those testifying were members of the legislative, judicial and executive branches, including the offices of the attorney general, chief court administrator, chief public defender and the Division of Criminal Justice. Others included the Connecticut Bar Association and the Southern New England Law Librarians Association. Ultimately, the vote to oppose elimination of the transcripts was unanimous.

Opposition has not abated and many open-government advocates view the decision by legislative leaders as yet another step in limiting accountability and curtailing transparency.

“The people of Connecticut deserve open and accountable government and this is leadership in the wrong direction,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause Connecticut. “It has the practical effect of further isolating citizens from those in Hartford who are supposed to be acting on our behalf. We need more information — not less — about issues being debated in the General Assembly. It is unacceptable for decisions related to access to information be made in the dark, without public input.

Quickmire, Murphy and Zachary Janowski, president of CCFOI, are among those who are urging legislative leaders to reverse their decision.

“Legislative leaders need to restore public access to their public hearings,” said Janowski. “Why invite citizens to testify if that part of the process isn’t going to be available to them or to citizens who, in the future, are trying to understand why certain decisions were made? Making open government an option instead of a requirement will ensure that Connecticut residents won’t get transparency when it’s needed most: when lawmakers have something to hide.”

The elimination of transcripts comes in the wake of the legislature’s move to restrict the public’s ability to see their state government in action via CT-N. For 18 years, cameras operated by the Connecticut Public Affairs Network were focused on activities of all three branches of government, giving TV viewers unfiltered access to state government operations.

However, legislative leaders did not renew the contract in late 2017 and wrested control of the operation from CPAN, halting the airing of activities by the executive and judicial branches and training the cameras exclusively on the legislature. The move was seen as a public relations ploy designed to give lawmakers more exposure. The seizing of editorial control by legislative leaders also halted coverage of press conferences, state nominating conventions, the program “Capitol Reports,” which summarized the weekly activities of the legislature, and Election Night results.

Of this latest action, Murphy said: “Eliminating transcriptions from the public sphere is essentially like eliminating the corner piece of a puzzle. Lawyers, judges and members of the public often search for that piece to completely understand the topic they are researching — the puzzle’s picture. If the legislative hearing piece no longer resides in the puzzle box, legislative history and legislative intent, like the puzzle, will forever be incomplete.”

Public’s Right to Know Should Include Government Use of Algorithms – CFOG News Release

03/13/18 – The Connecticut Foundation for Open Government has released a policy paper calling for elected officials and the public to consider the connection between proprietary computer algorithms owned or used by government and the public’s right to know what its government is doing.

CFOG White Paper – Government Algorithms and the Public’s Right to Know


HB 6750 derailed

At the behest of Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, the General Assembly Judiciary Committee has significantly watered down Freedom of Information legislation designed to re-open police investigatory files of arrests.
The Government Administration and Elections Committee had adopted a bill (H.B. 6750) that relied on state FOI statute 1-210(b)(3), which provides these eight exemptions:

the identity of informants not otherwise known or the identity of witnesses not otherwise known whose safety would be endangered or who would be subject to threat or intimidation if their identity was made known, (B) the identity of minor witnesses, (C) signed statements of witnesses, (D) information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action if prejudicial to such action, (E) investigatory techniques not otherwise known to the general public, (F) arrest records of a juvenile, which shall also include any investigatory files, concerning the arrest of such juvenile, compiled for law enforcement purposes, (G) the name and address of the victim of a sexual assault or injury or risk of injury, or impairing of morals or (H) uncorroborated allegations subject to destruction. pursuant to section 1-216;

Under 210, if it isn’t exempt, it needs to be released.

The state Supreme Court ruled last July that FOI statute 1-215 trumps 1-210. The court asked the legislature to revisit the issue.

215 is much more restrictive and allows for nothing more than name of person arrested, date, time and place of arrest and a police report or press release that need say no more than name, rank and serial number. What Kane gave the Judiciary Committee is based on 215 also calls for the arrest affidavit to be released if there is a warrant; or a summary of the facts if no warrant. But what that does is still limit what can be released.

Judiciary opted for Kane’s version. The debate continues in the General Assembly.

Discussion begins at 1 hour 45 minutes 40 seconds.

Bring Sunshine Back to Connecticut Law Enforcement – New England First Amendment Coalition

By James H. Smith

The sun isn’t shining brightly on law enforcement action in Connecticut.

The sun did shine one day last month on the State Legislature with testimony on a bill that would open up criminal investigations more to the public. But now the legislation is stalled in committee. It may or may not see the light of day.

As of this moment, the public can be denied 911 tapes, mug shots of those arrested for crimes, the race of anyone arrested — just about anything but who was arrested, where and for what.

For two decades much of the information gathered by police in criminal investigations and arrests has been available to the public. But last summer the state Supreme Court ruled, in essence, that police can keep secret almost everything they obtain in crime investigations. Technically, it ruled that one part of the FOI statutes, Section 1-215, which limits what must be released, trumps another, Section 1-210, which provided for more transparency into police activity.

The Court suggested that the Legislature revisit the issue and rectify the seeming contradiction in the sate’s laws.

After FOI advocates met with the leaders of the Legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee, which has cognizance on FOI matters, it offered H.B. 6750, An Act Expanding the Requirement for Disclosure of Arrest Records During a Pending Prosecution Under the Freedom of Information Act.

The bill drafted by the committee would reverse the Supreme Court decision. There was a full day of hearings where police and prosecutors opposed the legislation and FOI advocates supported it.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane testified that “the Supreme Court went through the legislative history of the statute . . . when this Legislature very wisely enacted that section (1-215),” thus narrowing the scope of what must be disclosed.

The bill before the committee shifts authority back to Section 1-210, which was the basis of 20 years of Freedom of Information Commission decisions on what police must release.

FOI Commission Executive Director Colleen Murphy testified how she looked back at the legislative history and found then-Sen. George Jepsen, now the state attorney general, saying that, “By closing off arrest records, we open up arrest itself as an avenue of abuse of civil rights because it will no longer be necessary for the police to defend an arrest on the basis of information that would be immediately available to public scrutiny.”

Murphy told the GAE Committee that Kane’s position “permits the police at their discretion to avoid public scrutiny of many aspects of an arrest, such as mug shots showing an arrestee’s appearance at the time of arrest or videotapes or other recordings made at the scene or in the police station . . . The law enforcement agency could withhold whether the person sits in a position of public trust, immigration status, minority status and the like . . . The (court) decision raises the question should the police have this absolute discretion to decide whether the public can learn this very important information.”

The committee’s co-chairman, Rep. Edward Jutila (D- East Lyme),  told the last week that the statute  “is an embarrassment. It needs to be changed.” Section 215 gives the police “latitude to give virtually no information.” Still, Jutila could not guarantee the GAE Committee would move the proposed legislation to the floor.

Let’s hope it does. This bill must not die in committee. A full debate in the House and the Senate is needed.

James is a member of NEFAC’s Board of Directors and is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.

Let the sun shine: Pass Raised Bill 6750 – The Lakeville Journal

By Dan Klau

The Connecticut General Assembly held a public hearing last week on Raised Bill 6750, An Act Expanding The Requirement For Disclosure Of Arrest Records During A Pending Prosecution Under The Freedom Of Information Act. The bill seeks to overturn a Connecticut Supreme Court decision last year, Comm’r of Public Safety v. FOIC, which set aside the Freedom of Information Commission’s longstanding (20 years!) interpretation of a provision of the Freedom of Information Act concerning the release of records concerning arrests. The Supreme Court decision was bad for openness and transparency, the proposed bill is good and the arguments against the bill are weak. The Legislature should pass the bill and the governor should sign it.

•  •  •

What is all the fuss about? It’s fairly simple. Since Governor Ella Grasso signed the FOIA into law in 1975, the FOIA has included a very important exemption, known colloquially as the “law enforcement exemption.” (See General Statutes § 1-210(b)(3).) That exemption allows law enforcement agencies to refuse to disclose records compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of a crime if, but only if, the disclosure of the record would not be in the public interest for one or more of seven reasons. Amongst other reasons, disclosure is not required if it would reveal the identity of an informant, prejudice a prospective law enforcement action or reveal records of a juvenile.

This is an important and necessary exemption to the FOIA. I support it, and the FOIC almost always supports law enforcement agencies when they invoke the exemption.

So what’s the problem? The police, both state and local, want even more power to withhold documents concerning an arrest, even if the disclosure of the records would not cause any problem the law enforcement exemption exists to prevent. This naked desire for even more power to deny public access to law enforcement records is extremely disturbing.

Here’s what Raised Bill 6750 would actually do. Since 1994, the FOIA has required the police to always release certain basic information about an arrest — so-called “blotter information”: name of arrestee, date of arrest, the offense(s) allegedly committed, etc. Such records are not subject to any exemption. However, for nearly 20 years, the FOIC held that other law enforcement records of an arrest, beyond that basic blotter information, also had to be released unless they fell within the law enforcement exemption. In other words, blotter information constituted the absolute minimum information about an arrest — the “floor” — that law enforcement had to disclose. The law enforcement exemption constituted the “ceiling” on disclosure.

Then, last summer, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a decision rejecting that longstanding interpretation. According to the Supreme Court, the FOIA allows the police to withhold additional records concerning an arrest, even if those records do not fall within the law enforcement exemption. The disclosure floor stayed the same, but the ceiling dropped down dramatically. Fortunately, the Supreme Court wisely invited the General Assembly to revisit that interpretation and consider amending the FOIA to restore the FOIC’s interpretation. In other words, the Supreme Court kicked the ball over to the Legislature.

•  •  •

Raised Bill 6750 accepts the Supreme Court’s invitation. It merely seeks to return the law to the state in which it existed prior to the Supreme Court’s recent decision. The FOIC’s interpretation of the law worked just fine for 20 years. It struck a proper balance between the public’s right to know how the police conduct their business and law enforcement’s legitimate need to keep certain information private. Raised Bill 6750 would restore that balance. As I said, but it bears repeating: The Legislature should pass the bill and the governor should sign it.

Dan Klau is a Hartford-based attorney whose practice focuses on appellate and First Amendment litigation. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

To know, or not to know? – The Lakeville Journal Editorial

Every recent legislative session in Connecticut has brought another challenge to open information that is both meaningful and dangerous for those who care about governmental accountability. This time, one of those is the need to reverse the state Supreme Court decision in 2014 that changed the amount of information that police must make public. That decision made it necessary only for police to share, about any incident, the arrest report, the incident report, the news release or some similar document. It is up to the cops to decide the amount of detail to include.

How would the police decide that? There are different ways to look at the functioning of government. One way is to suppose that everything done by those in authority is in the open and can only be kept secret if they can prove some overriding reason why that should happen. Another is to assume that actions taken by the government are done in secret, and will only be made public if engaged citizens make the case convincingly as to why that should occur.

Since 1975, when its Freedom of Information Act became law by unanimous vote of the Legislature, Connecticut has been a place where the actions of those in government have been considered as public actions. Do the citizens of Connecticut mind giving their public servants the opportunity to conceal some of the actions taken in their name? It seems likely we can all agree this is a time when privacy concerns are very real, and defensible, with too much personal information arguably available to too many people who should mind their own business a bit more. Yet when, for instance, police are conducting their business at a crime scene, should the 911 calls associated with it and the photographs taken there be difficult or impossible to access, as happened at the time of the Newtown Sandy Hook massacre? Is this the direction we want to take?

If so, while it could be seen that the rights of crime victims are being protected, such a policy could also provide perpetrators and those investigating an incident with tools to hide their own actions.

There needs to be a balance, which is hard to find, and many dedicated and intelligent people have been trying to find it since the end of the last Legislative session and since the state Supreme Court decision. Now is the time for the legislators to fix the damage done by the Court. There is a bill in the current Legislature, which should become law, House Bill 6750, that will amend what was set by the decision written by Justice Richard Robinson. The Court noted then that it was the Legislature’s responsibility to take on the effects of its decision if legislators thought it necessary. The House bill addresses the decision’s repercussions and should be passed.

Now is the time to let our representatives in Hartford know if you care about open information relating to police actions. Those representatives have offices that are open to their constituents, and they should always be willing to hear from them. That is their job, after all: to represent the will of the people they serve. Make your will known now:

State Rep. Roberta Willis (D-64),, 1-800-842-8267; State Sen. Clark Chapin (R-30),, 1-800-842-1421.

Too Few Sign FOI Pledge – Editorial

Gov. Dan Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and state Comptroller Kevin Lembo — a card carrying FOI advocate — have signed the Freedom of Information Pledge proffered by the non-profit advocacy group Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. It took several weeks for Malloy to decide to sign on. Lembo asked immediately, “Where do I sign?” But too few have.

Only 24 of 187 state legislators – about 12 percent – have signed the pledge, initially issued last October during the election campaign and again last month. None of the top leaders of either house have signed, though some key veteran state senators and representatives have.

Deputy Speaker of the House Peggy Sayers, D-Windsor Locks, understands the history: “Gov. Grasso held this seat when she served as a state representative and it is only fitting that I support her legislation,” said Sayers in signing the FOI pledge.

It was Gov. Ella T. Grasso who proposed and signed Connecticut’s FOI law in 1975. It created a first-in-the-nation Freedom of Information Commission where citizens could put government secrecy on trial. Any cop, selectman, school board or state agency – any public official except a judge in a court room (though judicial administrative records are subject to the FOI laws ) – could be ordered by the FOI Commission to disclose information a citizen was seeking – unless it fit into a few specific exemptions.

Back then, Grasso, a Democrat, convinced the entire legislature to pass the law, even every Republican with the help of state Senate Majority Leader Lewis Rome, who said, “I think it is landmark legislation . . . and I hope that we would unanimously support the legislation as witness our good intentions and good faith in the idea that government belongs to the people.” Today, so far, four Republicans and 20 Democrats have affixed their signatures. And in the 40 years since the law was adopted, the exemptions have exploded.

Piecemeal, more and more government records are being kept secret.

So CCFOI, which was founded 60 years ago and worked with Grasso on the original legislation, issued the pledge. It is modeled, in part on the Connecticut Constitution, Article Third, Section 16: The debates of each house shall be public, except on such occasions as in the opinion of the house may require secrecy.

And that is what the pledge asks — to keep debate open and to protect the FOI Commission: “I will support and protect Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, including the independence of the state’s unique Freedom of Information Commission, and oppose weakening it.

If proposals are made to limit public access, I will, within my authority, assure such proposals are subjected to public processes, including public hearings, and will support such changes only when the public’s interest in non-access to records or proceedings clearly outweighs the public’s interest in access. Four years ago the medical records of Civil War soldiers at Connecticut Valley Hospital and the medical records of the state’s most infamous mass murderer — Amy Archer Gilligan, who poisoned her husband and without a doubt many others at her nursing home 100 years ago — were public.

That is until the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services learned that historical researchers were seeking the records.

The department moved to shut down the information, never mind that it might shed light on post traumatic stress disorder, or the thinking of a mass murderer.

After failing to get a bill out of committee in the 2011 legislative session, DMHAS managed an essentially secret “Midnight Amendment” — inserted as the 37th section of a 98-section public health bill in 2012. The vast majority of legislators probably did not even know of its existence. No debate, no discussion in a maneuver that does not serve the public good.

Legislators pledging to require debate could blunt these tactics.

Some have said they simply don’t sign pledges, but mostly the FOI Pledge has been met by silence. To be sure state legislators from important cities – Danbury, East Hartford, Manchester, Middletown, New Haven, Norwalk, Torrington and Waterbury — have signed. It’s also heartening to see so many of the people’s elected representatives stand up for the people’s right to know from smaller towns all over the state – from Chester and Haddam to Stratford to Canton and Barkhamsted to Mansfield and Willington to Southington to Windsor.

Now we need more.

James H. Smith is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.

Legislators Urged To Undo Court Ruling That Lets Police Suppress Arrest Details – Hartford Courant

Police departments in Connecticut don’t have to release much information about arrests that they make — not in a timely manner, anyway — and open-government advocates are now saying that legislators need to pass a bill to increase disclosure requirements.

While some police chiefs see a value in explaining the circumstances under which people are charged with crimes, other law enforcement officials such as the state police have long kept their disclosures to a minimum and left major holes in the public’s knowledge about what happened.

The situation has bred conflicts between law enforcement and citizens or reporters seeking arrest documents, but for the past couple of decades the state Freedom of Information Commission was able to manage a sort of uncomfortable balance between those opposing forces.


That balance was shattered, however, last summer by a state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the state police and against the FOI Commission: The court said police agencies don’t have to tell the public anything but the most perfunctory information about arrests while prosecutions are pending.

It can take months or years from the time a person is arrested until his or her case concludes in court. And that’s too long a delay — because the public needs to be able to judge, when an incident is fresh, whether the police acted properly and effectively, some supporters of disclosure told a legislative committee at the Capitol complex in Hartford on Friday.

“Because government gives its law enforcement agencies monopoly power over the use of force and incarceration, they pose one of the greatest threats to a democratic form of government, if and when that power is misused or abused,” said James H. Smith, president of the non-profit Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.

Smith was testifying in favor of House Bill 6750 — “An Act Expanding The Requirement For Disclosure Of Arrest Records During a Pending Prosecution Under the Freedom of Information Act” — at a hearing conducted by the legislature’s Government Administration and Elections Committee.

The bill would amend state statutes to reverse last summer’s Supreme Court ruling. The court said that between the time a person is arrested until the conclusion of his or her prosecution in court, the police don’t need to release any more than: 1) “police blotter” information, including the “name and address of the person arrested, the date, time and place of the arrest and the offense for which the person was arrested”; and 2) a press release, which is typically brief and adds little to what’s on the police blotter.

Under House Bill 6750, police would have to disclose any “record that pertains to the arrest of any person” under the provisions of the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Under that act, a citizen can appeal to the FOI Commission if a police department refuses to release a document and then the police get a chance to justify their action by citing one of several exemptions in the law — such as that disclosing a document could endanger a witness or jeopardize a prosecution.

That’s how it worked for about two decades prior to last summer’s Supreme Court decision, and that’s how it would be again if the bill passes, according to Smith and other FOI advocates.

Law enforcement officials weighed in against the bill, however. The state’s top prosecutor, Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, submitted testimony saying his agency “fully recognizes the public’s right to receive information regarding the arrest of a citizen,” but “that right is adequately implemented” by the law on which the Supreme Court relied “which makes public the basic blotter information and some additional information regarding the circumstances that led to the arrest.””The disclosure of information beyond this amount should not be mandated by statute and should rest in the hands of law enforcement agencies, who are in the best position to protect the integrity of a pending prosecution and the safety of witnesses,” Kane testified.

Avoiding Scrutiny

Colleen Murphy, executive director of the FOI Commission, testified in favor of the new bill — saying that since last summer’s court ruling, police agencies can continue to “avoid public scrutiny of many aspects of an arrest, such as mug shots showing an arrestee’s appearance at the time of arrest, videotapes or other recordings made at the scene or in the police station, and records indicating an arrestee’s immigration status or whether the arrestee held a position of public trust, for example.”

“Should the police have unchallengeable discretion to decide whether the public can learn this very important information, or should this decision be vested in the FOIC, as it had been for many decades prior to the Court’s ruling?” Murphy said.

She said that Supreme Court “expressly recognized” in its decision last year that there are “numerous salutary effects of requiring greater disclosure,” adding that justices said it’s the General Assembly’s job to address the issue of requiring increased disclosure on arrests.

“By reversing [the court decision] and restoring broader disclosure requirements of law enforcement records after an arrest, [House Bill 6750] strikes an appropriate balance between promoting transparency in law enforcement and preserving the integrity of pending prosecutions,” Murphy said. “The FOIC strongly urges the legislature to adopt this carefully crafted bill.”

Last year’s court decision stemmed from a 2008 complaint to the FOIC by a New Haven Register reporter who was denied detailed state police reports that formed the basis of the arrest in Derby of a man on charges of attempted murder in the assault of an elderly man.

The state police said the reports sought by the reporter were exempt from disclosure. They provided an “official press release,” which contained the accused’s name, address and birth date; the date, time and location of the incident; the charges filed; and a two-paragraph narrative with additional information about the incident.

The FOI Commission ruled in favor of the reporter, but the police agency appealed in court. Two years later, when the accused pleaded guilty, the records originally requested were made public. But the court proceedings continued over the police’s refusal to release records at the time of the arrest — and those proceedings ultimately led to last year’s Supreme Court ruling.

Smith said at Friday’s hearing: “We simply ask the General Assembly to resolve an ambiguity that the Supreme Court recently identified in [the] General Statutes…and to restore the twenty-year interpretation of the Freedom of Information Commission that resolved the ambiguity in favor of greater openness and transparency. HB 6750 makes clear that “records of an arrest” — including basic blotter information — must always be released following an arrest.”

The committee’s two co-chairmen, Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, and Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, had different reactions to the bill Friday.

Cassano said he’s bothered by the prevalence of information on the Internet, television and in print media about people’s arrests when they haven’t been convicted of a crime, and may never be. That damage to a person’s reputation can’t be undone, he said.

Jutila said he thinks “we need to do something” in the wake of the high court decision because in many cases a police press release says virtually “nothing” to the public beyond to the basic blotter information.

Police agencies can pretty much give out all the information they want about an arrest, but that’s not the norm — and Jutila and others suggested that lawmakers need to improved upon the minimal disclosures required under the Supreme court ruling.

Even Kane agreed that “I think the public is entitled to more information than is routinely given” about an arrest. But he said he has begun discussing with Connecticut police chiefs a “protocol” under which departments would improve their disclosure policies. He said he didn’t yet have a target date for developing that.

Murphy said policies can always be reversed, and legislative action is needed to lock the changes into statutes.

Smith responded to Cassano’s comments by saying that public trials are fundamental to a free society — and they always involve public accusations before a finding of guilt or innocence.

Likewise, Murphy said that while arrest reports contain unproven allegations, it’s part of the price of having a free society in which there are no secret arrests as in other countries over the course of history. Also, she said, the FOI Act already contains exemptions that address Kane’s concerns about the harm that inappropriate disclosures could do to witnesses. Police reports could be “redacted” to remove information that could harm witnesses, she said, adding that the system worked fine for 20 years before last summer’s court ruling.

Rep. David Alexander, D-Enfield, said at Friday’s hearing that he admires and supports police — his grandfather was a cop — but he added that a police brutality incident in his hometown last year proved the value of releasing arrest information to the public.

He cited The Courant’s posting on its website of a video from an Enfield police cruiser showing three officers taking down an unarmed Windsor man last April, with one of them striking him repeatedly. Officer Matthew Worden was fired Oct. 3 over allegations that he used excessive force during the arrest.

Disclosure of such information “sheds light” not only on rare police misconduct that the public should know about, but also on the good conduct of most police officers, Alexander said.

Jon Lender is a reporter on The Courant’s investigative desk, with a focus on government and politics. Contact him at, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115 and find him on




Our View: Government accountability starts with openness – The Bulletin

Posted Nov. 24, 2014 @ 2:01 am

Prior to the election, the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information asked candidates running for state office to sign a pledge in support of open government. With little fanfare, and waiting to after the election, we learned last week that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the pledge on Wednesday.

Malloy joins state Comptroller Kevin Lembo and a handful of legislators – 38 candidates in total with Malloy – to sign the pledge.

We are extremely disappointed that none of the incumbent legislators from Eastern Connecticut who won re-election signed. Only three candidates from the region did: Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton, Jonathan Cesolini of Killingly, the Republican challenger in the 44th Assembly District, and state Sen.-elect Paul Formica, R-East Lyme. Wright and Cesolini were defeated.

We applaud the governor for taking this step and we hope that his decision might influence others into following suit. Far too many legislators and Constitutional officers declined to sign, which does not bode well for openness and transparency in government.

Among one of the additional steps we would urge the governor to consider is restoring the independence of the State Freedom of Information Commission which was weakened when it and other watchdog groups were consolidated and their funding cut. Shrinking and streamlining government are worthy efforts but not the expense of serving citizens.

The two-part pledge that candidates were asked to sign includes a promise to oppose any effort to further weakened the Freedom of Information Commission and to “require debate at public hearing” before any legislation or administrative action is taken that would “weaken or impair the state FOI law.”

That second part reflects the provision of the state Constitution that requires “debates of each (legislative) house shall be public, except on such occasions as in the opinion of the house may require secrecy.”

Discussing issues out of the public view is necessary at times, but good government demands it be held to a minimum.

That’s our opinion. We’d like to hear yours. Email us your thoughts at