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 letters@norwichbulletin.com.

CCFOI asks for FOI Pledge from Candidates

Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Serving the public since 1955

Oct. 8, 2014

Dear Candidate for the General Assembly and Constitutional office:

Freedom of information and the public’s right to know about Connecticut state and municipal governments have been under increasing attack in recent years. So the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, urges you to take the Public Official’s Pledge for Open and Accountable Government, which is appended.

CCFOI, a non-profit entering our 60th year, will let your constituents know of your support for their right to know.

Please take this pledge by signing it and mailing it or e-mailing it back to me. Please feel free to make a comment about your pledge.


JAMES H. SMITH, President
Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
59 Sioux Drive
Oxford, CT 06478
James H. Smith Email

CCFOI officers: President, James H. Smith;
Vice President, Richard Ahles;
Secretary, Mary Connolly;
Treasurer, George Lombardi

Public Official’s Pledge for Open and Accountable Government

In 1975 the General Assembly unanimously sent to Gov. Ella T. Grasso the landmark legislation she had asked for, what became known as Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, that she signed it into law. The FOI Act promises that government at every level in Connecticut — state and municipal, from police departments to schools — will strive to conduct business in the open. The act guarantees the right of everyone to have access to government agency meetings and records.

As government in Connecticut has grown in the decades since its passage, the FOI Act is even more important today. It ensures accountability in government and thereby promotes confidence in government.

As Governor Grasso and the 1975 General Assembly did, I believe that a successful democracy requires open, transparent, and accountable government. Accordingly, I pledge to my constituents and to all the people of Connecticut that:

— I will support Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, including the independence of the state’s unique Freedom of Information Commission, and oppose weakening it.
— I will do whatever I can to require that any proposals to weaken or impair the FOI Act be presented for debate at public hearings before any action is taken on them.



Please return to:
James H. Smith Email
203-915-9428 or James H. Smith, 59 Sioux Drive, Oxford, CT 06478