Editorial: FOI bill is Democrats against democracy – Waterbury Republican-American


When it comes to fights over public education – from removing pornography from school libraries to ensuring racial essentialism isn’t laundered into school curricula through “equity” initiatives – the actual question is whether publicly funded educational institutions should be subject to public control. In other words, it’s a question of whether American leaders value democracy.

This is true at the college level, too. Indeed, public colleges in Connecticut receive so much money that they’re apoplectic over Gov. Ned Lamont including nearly $900 million in his recent two-year budget proposal. That amount of money, college leaders and students say, is unacceptably low.

But despite the fact that these institutions would not exist without massive appropriations of public money, some state leaders don’t think public universities should be accountable to the public. (Read More)

Bridgeport’s attempt to comply with transparency law may not be legal, experts say – Connecticut Post

By Brian Lockhart, Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, and Joshua Eaton

BRIDGEPORT — In an effort to comply with a state transparency law it has long flouted, Mayor Joe Ganim’s administration is taking a controversial approach to reduce its massive backlog of pending requests for public records, raising concerns among state officials and First Amendment advocates.
As it wades through nearly 3,000 unfulfilled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, Bridgeport’s law department has sent notices asking requestors who have been waiting at least six months for a response to let the department know if they still want the documents.
The notices say that if the law department does not hear back within 30 days, it will cancel the request, closing it out without providing the records sought. (Read More)

FOI is under attack in Connecticut as never before – Connecticut Post

By Michele Jacklin

In 1975, with the unyielding insistence of then-Gov. Ella T. Grasso, Connecticut lawmakers enacted a groundbreaking freedom of information law, opening up previously secretive state and local governmental operations and providing citizens with seemingly unfettered access to troves of information.
Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was considered so important and worthy of emulation that other states and nations around the world sought to adopt many of its facets. (Read More)

Seized evidence should not be kept secret – Connecticut Mirror

03/11/19 – By Michael Savino

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information advocates, on behalf of the news media and other open government advocates, to preserve the public’s right to know through Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act. Our organization has been leading the way in the fight for transparency since 1955. (Read More)

Transparency helps public understand actions of police – Meriden Record-Journal

03/08/19 – Editorial

A proposed bill seeking an exemption from state Freedom of Information laws would greatly hinder the public’s right to know. In the interests of transparency it should not move forward. (Read More)

Police Secrecy Bill Should Be Defeated – Danbury News-Times

03/06/19 – By Hearst Connecticut Media Group Editorial Board

The public does not need more secrecy from police. If anything, there should be less. (Read More)

What Should Remain Public Information In Criminal Investigations? – CTNewsJunkie.com

03/07/19 – By Jack Kramer

HARTFORD, CT — Whether the public should have access to all evidence seized in a criminal investigation was the subject of a Judiciary Committee public hearing Wednesday. (Read More)

Bill would expand police secrecy – CTPost

03/06/19 – By Ken Dixon

HARTFORD — A battle broke out Wednesday between law enforcement officials who want to expand their secrecy protections and those promoting the public’s right to open records and government transparency, over controversial legislation that would expand items exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act. (Read More)

CCFOI statement against sealing criminal records to help people get housing

February 7, 2019

The Honorable Dennis Bradley, Senate Chair
The Honorable Brandon McGee, House Chair
Housing Committee
Connecticut General Assembly
Legislative Office Building, Room 2700
Hartford, Connecticut 06106

Dear Chairmen Bradley and McGee, Ranking Members Hwang and Dauphinais, and members of the Housing Committee:

My name is Chris Powell. I live in Manchester. I am a newspaper columnist and a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, for which I’m speaking today in opposition to SB 54, “An Act Concerning Landlords’ Ability to Review Criminal Records Relating to  Prospective Tenants” and HB 5712, “An Act Concerning the Connecticut Clean Slate Law.”

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information defends the public’s right to know about government.

Criminal-justice reform in Connecticut increasingly is being construed as the concealment of criminal records and the enforcement of ignorance against the public. That’s what the legislation before you today would do for records of nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies, sealing the records if the offenders complete their sentences and stay out of trouble for a set time.

A criminal record indeed can be a serious handicap, but denying the public access to the criminal history of potential employees, tenants, roommates, romantic partners, and service providers would be dangerous and unjust. People are entitled to make their own judgments on the people they would closely associate with, and people should be able to know what the government knows about those people.

Limiting the sealing of records to those involving nonviolent offenses, as is being proposed, seems to contemplate mainly drug dealing. Drug criminalization indeed is futile, but the solution to the drug problem, insofar as there is one, is probably to medicalize it, not to pretend that drug convictions are always irrelevant to character.

Further, most convictions in Connecticut are the products of plea bargaining, which heavily discounts the offenses actually committed. That is, in most cases people with criminal records already have received a pretty good deal from the government.

Yes, the public interest requires that upon their release criminal offenders be able to support themselves by honest work, not by welfare or returning to crime. But honesty includes taking responsibility. Just as people must take responsibility for the employees they hire, the tenants they rent to, the lovers they choose, and the mechanics they let into their homes, people also should take responsibility for breaking the law.

Telling the truth about breaking the law is taking responsibility, and it can be disarming and win sympathy and a chance to show what else one can do.

Government should never obstruct the public’s access to the truth, nor falsify history, as the legislation at issue today would do.

Thanks for your kind attention.

Chris Powell, Member
Board of Directors
Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
7 Villa Louisa Road
Manchester, Connecticut 06043-7541