CONNECTICUT'S THREE "WATCH DOG AGENCIES"-
IN THE NEWS FROM THE 4th ESTATE WATCH DOGS:
Letter from Minority Leader of Senate requesting an opinion...
Turnaround and back peddling from Governor: http://ctmirror.org/2016/08/19/malloy-releases-funds-withheld-from-ct-watchdog-agencies/
RELATED MATTER: When should office holders recuse themselves? Article from the New York TIMES Oct. 11, 2016
Freedom of Information Commission
DOING THE RIGHT THING: The public has a right to know...road show upon request to all 169 towns and their various agencies
HERE IS THE SHORT VERSION (2017): http://www.ct.gov/foi/cwp/view.asp?a=4161&q=488526
HERE IS A SCANNED-IN VERSION FROM THE SHORT VERSION (2010) I CARRY WITH ME AT ALL TIMES
And here is the most up to date full version of the CT F.O.I.Act: http://www.ct.gov/foi/lib/foi/the_foi_act/2017_foiaamendments_updated10012017.pdf
WESTON F.O.I. WORKSHOP "101" STORY
Held in Weston, Feb. 8, 2018..."transparency" is the word: https://vimeo.com/254890341
(Center) Why board members might not want to communicate by Facebook or e-mail - subject to F.O.I. requests.
#1 - F R E E D O M O
F I N F O R M A T I O N C O M M I S S
I O N ;
Opening Annual Meeting was Executive Director Colleen Murphy
2018 Freedom of Information Annual Meeting Panels:
"Nuts & Bolts" Questions & Answers
Tom Hennick moderates. Question of online data. "Real record" v. land record portal
OK TO ASK FOR PREPAYMENT FOR COPIES
- Private cell phones now in play.
- Home access from office computer? Harmon answer: OK. Accidental dialing?
- Fishing expedition can be turned away.
- "Give me all your records"
- Habitual requestors. Estimate no. of pages at 50 cents per.
HB5175 - will be helpful but is on the foot of the House Calendar
From the outside looking in
Private attorney does multiple choice, among others, these:
- Skype-in to public meeting for all members.
- School committee recommendation approved - "secret committee" -
definition of committee. All public agencies which are created
have to post, have minutes. (Meeting requirements).
Moderator Att'y Sommaruga
EMAIL IS THE ACHILLES HEAL OF GOVERNMENT
- West Haven Mayor- body cam $$ in a community under fiscal
monitoring. She brought her own cameras to meetings to serve
- NBC TV investigative reporter (Channel 30) works to inform but also protect public right to know.
- Attorney who thinks you need to actually see the people who are involved in meetings..
SOCIAL MEDIA REACHES YOUNGER GENERATION
INTERESTING CASE FILED
- New Milford Board of Education's we think sub-committee quorum participated in non-public meeting with multiple other actors.
- Hearings/Meetings of the F.O.I. we watched online;
#2 - C I T I Z E N ' S E T H I C S A D V I S O R Y B O A R D ( "C.O.E.B." ) ;
#3 - S . E . E . C . on LWV of Weston ("State Elections Enforcement Commission") website as well.
F.O.I. HEARINGS AS WELL AS MEETINGS
We watched F.O.I. Commission July meeting for their last item first...Woodbridge Police Commission v. police officer for improper executive session.
July 27th "outing" by F.O.I. Commission. and end of the 2 hour July meeting.
Reference made to this article: http://www.courant.com/sports/uconn-mens-basketball/hc-sp-kevin-ollie-termination-20180620-story.html.
Voluminous request. To be discussed in camera in 3 months with progress reports in the interim.
When they resume the hearing, President Herbst won't be President - she
has said they, UCONN, have a case for termination just on the recent
obvious documented violations.
WHITING PSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTE / D.M.H.A.S. v. Hartford COURANT HEARING MAY 31, 2018
FO.I. requests etc. personnel from D.M.H.A.S. who responded not pictured
So we figured out what this hearing was for: Education.
Young lawyer getting a lesson from experienced attorney for F.O.I.A.,
Continued for another hearing date or whatever. Viewing of
medical records "in camera" as opposed to on CT-N. Victor
Perpetua, chief attorney for F.O.I. demands this, or may do so...
"PRELIMINARY DRAFT EXEMPTION" HEARING (90 minutes total in public notice). An example of how economic models work...
Why and how was "90 minutes" chosen as the total length for the F.O.I.
hearing? Ans. 90 minutes maximum for parking meters on
Record-Journal, Meriden v. D.E.C.D.
Register- Journal reporter (left, below) asks "What's so secret?"
This is a laugh! Which model do they use (more than one available) and how do they change their initial offering?
D.E.C.D. runs scenarios. And they show basic indicators
only. We note some models might be for different size regions -
which is like other computer models that require total inputs of larger
size in order to be accurate???
F.O.I. QUESTION - INPUTS: What kind of jobs, needs. - assumptions.
- full time employees
- expenditures (cap.)
- time line
July 13 for next meeting consideration of hearing officer findings.
First item from jailhouse pre-trial, re:
legal requirements about receiving all evidence - F.O.I.gives advice
only. Second item about Christmas Day fire 2011 litigation.
"STRATEGY & NEGOTIATION": What and who may participate and how
do you count a quorum for deciding whether to go into executive
Stamford Town Attorney asked: Was it an Executive Session matter or not?
- Stamford executive session attendees - who can be in the meeting.
- Who is a "party" to the issue and how defined.
- Notice posting separately for each board participating? (This would have been my question but nobody asked it.)
- Board of Reps in Stamford not named in cases. Therefore, not in on Executive Session?
- Many details not discussed.
- Many jurisdictions named.
- Confidential documents obviously not discussed.
- In order to participate in executive session about pending claim, do you have to be named in lawsuit (s)?
HEARING OFFICER READY FOR S.C.O.T.U.S.?
- Multi-board executive session and did all post notice? No.
- From what we heard, F.O.I. Commission watered down findings to favor City of Stamford but...
- Required them to hold refresher course for everyone about complying with F.O.I. Act.
Last item on the agenda legislative review of what passed and how
watered down it got and by the qway, no F.O.I. budget cut in budget
School Resource Officer got students arrested for "rapping" in the school courtyard over lunch. Suspension as well as police record for "rappers."
January 11, 2018 F.O.I. Commission "rapping" videos in Berlin H.S. courtyard during lunch break...how many legal issues does this case touch???
- Briefs to be filed for Jan. 30 continuation.
- Assistant Principal (not shown at left) decision made with advice of Board of Education attorney
- Student's cellphone seized. The kid who took the video
(actually two separate videos - 50 seconds and 20 seconds) did so on a
- No one allowed to see it, the quick videos, we think we heard this.
- Upon questioning, Ass't Principal said she was not qualified to
answer question on releasing cellphone (requested from and given freely
ONLINE REPORT - ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT REFERS TO USE OF - F A K E N E W S
City of New Haven P.D. Attorney and State's Attorney's Office v. Yale. Miss handling DNA samples.
Freedom of Information Commission Hearing Regarding the Suzanne Jovin Murder Case - Yale Law School Student have a field day
Cold Case (18yrs ago)
STATE TOOK OVER IN 2007 - HOW MUCH TAXPAYER MONEY WAS SPENT ON THIS F.O.I.A. COMPLAINT?
Records department. Yale students are being allowed to
question. Perry Mason would be proud. No records later than
2007. Records taken by state's att'y.; "what's 'cold case.'"
After spending 1 hour and a half or so that's enough! First of
all, this was an exercise for Yale law school students who used
newspaper reports as "testimony." And cost time and money for
hearing officer to waste on them instead of serious complaints.
Previous hear officer reports (2014) - C.E.A. had withdrawn. Legislature has changed the law now.
Teachers Union wants to know who donated to Achievement First by name
(not just names of the three schools in CT - but who is paying for
curriculum development). Is there a record of who gave
money? Two complaints withdrawn.
June 12th simultaneous briefs. ONE brief (please - from att'y) - reference to "Perry Mason" quality of case.
ON TUESDAY NOVEMBER 1, 2016 AGENDA...
"...The question in this case is whether in this case the MDC is abusing
the federal Protected Critical Infrastructure Program by putting a
'classified' stamp on documents and information that clearly are not
about 'critical infrastructure' – and we think they are abusing it,"
said Dan Klau, the lawyer representing Rossetti in the FOI case...
Read story in full here: http://www.courant.com/breaking-news/hc-lender-mdc-security-20161024-column.html
"HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR REGARDING HOW REPORTING SPENDING IS CONCERNED?" ONE CT RESIDENT ASKS.
We are interested in finding out whether "public-private partnerships"
are uniformly required to provide assurance via "sunshine laws" that no
proverbial "fix" is in.
AUGUST 24, 2016 AN INTERESTING MEETING!
Prisoner appeals to F.O.I. about his denial to access to records.
Department of Corrections says they have complied. Interesting
case. And court case may be in peril. Decided in prisoner's
favor - who couldn't believe he won!
CT AIRPORT AUTHORITY
"Secret" documents and meetings: burden of proof. Nothing in
the record tell anyone re: burden of proof. "Trade
Secrets." Casino/MGM not currently planning casino at
airport; "secrets" withheld. Economic terms? "Secret
meeting" no minutes and no lease to be discussed, burden of proof - just
wanted to keep public out. Draping public meeting cloaked by
In defense, Authority attorney says original proposal is dead but there
are a few more still "trade secrets." Internal documents.
380 (terminal and ground transportation) out of 407 have been
released. Everything the airport is a lease - not intentionally
All discussions in private. Lease, purchase, sell -
Slippery slope arguments. Public interest be damned??? This
was the end of actions taken we believe - we broke off watching and when
we went to watch more of the "replay" found that it was no longer on
the online recent meetings. However...here is a link to meting
minutes, which were online at the F.O.I. website: http://www.ct.gov/foi/cwp/view.asp?a=4282&Q=585178&PM=1
AUGUST 10, 2016
"Justice delayed is justice denied?"
CT FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION TO PERHAPS SUGGEST CHANGES TO REGS (r)
FOR EXAMPLE, WITHDRAWAL OF COMPLAINT THE MORNING OF THE HEARING COSTLY PLUS WHO ELSE CAN'T GET A HEARING AS A RESULT?
Sympathetic to builder from Vernon, who was confused about the process in his town, voted to reopen hearing (l).
REFERENCE TO CUTS TO WATCHDOGS
What a difference one year makes! Executive Director now reports
that OPM has overstepped its bounds with budget cuts. Suggests
next month they should decide whether to ask for Attornney General's
PUBLIC ACCESS AND ACCOUNTABILITY LEGISLATION, CONNECTICUT GENERAL ASSEMBLY (2015 REGULAR & SPECIAL SESSIONS)
By Paula Sobral Pearlman, Staff Attorney
Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission
(Updated: July 10, 2015)
Summary of Legislative Sessions:
During the 2015 regular and special legislative sessions there were
numerous pieces of legislation introduced that would impact the public’s
right to access government records and meetings (e.g., SB 230, SB 848,
SB 1056, SB 1096, SB 1109, SB 1502, HB 6813, HB 6903 and HB 7103,
discussed below). The most crucial proposal pertained to the
disclosure of arrest records during a pending prosecution.
Report in full: http://www.ct.gov/foi/cwp/view.asp?a=4314&Q=569054
Education Dept. Releases SBAC Test Data Only to Local School Superintendents
by Christine Stuart | Aug 20, 2015 5:30am
Early Wednesday morning, Department of Education Deputy Commissioner
Ellen Cohen sent an email to every school superintendent in the state to
let them know not to share the results of the Smarter Balanced
Assessment Consortium exam with anyone.
The school superintendents have access to the raw data through an online reporting system that’s password protected.
In her email, Cohen warns superintendents not to share the information, even with their boards of education.
“Releasing results (including discussing with the press or sharing
results at Board of Education meetings) prior to the lift of the embargo
jeopardizes your district’s access to future embargoed releases,” Cohen
writes in the email.
CTNewsJunkie requested access to the aggregated draft reports for school
districts, but was told they were “drafts” and releasing them would not
be in the “public interest.”
There is an exemption under the Freedom of Information Act for preliminary drafts...from definitions section: (b) Nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of:
(1) Preliminary drafts or notes provided the public agency has
determined that the public interest in withholding such documents
clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure;
For story in full: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/education_department_releases_test_data_to_superintendents_but_not_public/
DECEMBER 29, 2015
NOT F.O.I. Commission meeting
F.O.I. Hearing Officer's Hearing, 12-29-15: Bethel citizen request for all expense info of administrators for 5 years
Online viewing of hearing Dec. 30th. We missed opening. We
also note that Superintendent from another school district in CT
recently convicted of a felony, we believe, over improper
receipts/expenses - is this related? When we arrived online,
administrator answering questions by complainant's lawyer, carefully not
answering who set the "fee." Is the charge for copying itself or
having to pay something for the time it took to assemble data in the
request and redacting names and personal information on some pages of
- 50 cents per page or $20 meeting the spirit of the law.
- E-mails (2) from complainant on policy, after incident not allowed to be entered into evidence.
- Policies and regulations: "Building Use Fees" example.
- Policy or regulation? State Statute not updated to include smartphones.
- F.O.I. Commission staff had apparently advised Bethel that they could charge.
- F.O.I. request for documents copying charges? Bethel refers to the C.G.S.
Bethel: Or is the complaint that the agency never set a fee
structure? But that is not in the complaint that was filed and set
for this hearing. And B.O.E. attorney points out that that
individual filing not present to answer questions, only his lawyer.
Complainant's lawyer: Fee structure? Hearing officer
questions whether filed complaintt says anything about technical stuff -
copies 50 cents period, notes "May establish a fee structure" is in
Stay tuned for hearing officer report on a future F.O.I. Commission agenda!
About Weston only watched the opening half hour...our thought: Why do you think there is an "embargo"?
Malloy administration gives towns the Common Core SBAC test results
but not the public: Action violates Connecticut’s Freedom of
Jon Pelto, What Wait blog
Aug 19, 2015
This morning Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Diana
Wentzell, held the state’s annual back-to-school meeting for Connecticut
superintendents at Al Prince Vo-Tech High School in Hartford.
...Providing school superintendents with the 2015 SBAC results
but claiming those results are “embargoed” is particularly inappropriate
“Embargoed” is a PR term used with reporters when issuing selected press
releases and has no meaning when it comes to the notion of public
access to public information. Connecticut’s Freedom of Information
law makes absolutely no exception for “embargoed” information.
Making public information available to a select group of people but
withholding it from others is a serious violation of Connecticut’s
Freedom of Information law.
The Malloy administration should immediately make the 2015 SBAC results
public. If they refuse, the Connecticut Freedom of Information
Commission should force them to release the information and investigate
who was behind this effort to keep public information secret.
AUGUST 15, 2015
This was our first time viewing a "hearing officer's" public hearing online!
F.O.I. Commission Hearing w/ Hearing Officer on New Britain Rock Cats move to Hartford as part of redevelopment plan.
August 4, 2015 @30 minutes long. We watched it August 5, 2015 on CT-N.
COMPLAINT: NPR v. City of Hartford.
Exhibit 'A' - complaint - was there a specific
document? Did you receive? Disk made available only when
public opening of all documents - exception for draft not in law
DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT NORTH - baseball team. 12 documents all
together. They establish the relationship with baseball team and
Eastern League. New Britain Rock Cats. $350 million.
Redevelopment inter-related - public-private partnership. Big
question we wonder about: Does private sector have to be asked to
comply? Signed "prior to operation" to borrow money (bond
offering) - two weeks of signing all developer prior to release.
Corporation Counsel saw it in "draft form" first. Bond Counsel too
since be or she had to certify that it was signed. Still a
draft? Similar but not the same fact situation at differing
scales? Where in F.O.I. does it say this is OK? Hearing
officer asks to City of Hartford attorney to submit brief by
8-28-15. Hearing Officer wasn't able to find anything in the act
itself addressing this.
DRAFT decision by hearing officer to be issued after Aug 28th,
then there will be a full hearing at the F.O.I. Commission, date &
July 22, 2015 meeting of F.O.I. Commission
On a slow day for news, we watched a re-run of the CT F.O.I. Commission at work - http://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=11807
Police Departments, Boards of Education, Corrections Dept. and CT
gov't entities as well as Selectmen challenged under F.O.I. this
Those items discussed after hearing officer's opinion published as a
draft represented why lawyers might have a better chance of success at
F.O.I. than non-lawyers.
However, the key item we noticed was why those who received
unsympathetic draft opinions would withdraw before final action
taken. Hartford charter school case att'y asked and received note
of this in the Commission's final wording. And the next case tried
the same thing, but language not inserted - it was already implied that
the defending Board of Education had learned their lesson.
Recurring complaint not included for future hearing agenda, staff reports.
We note that shortly after the Nov. 3, 2015 election, the new First Selectman asked the F.O.I. Commission to return to Weston.
April 20, 2015 visit by F.O.I. information officer to Weston drew a crowd.
Each administration in Weston tries to inform its volunteer
Boards and Commission members and staff what they must do to keep things
"transparent." However, if the public wants to know what actions
and government may have taken outside the F.O.I.A. or "open government" rules, they go
to court...and perhaps end up back at F.O.I. Commission.
For previous news about the S.E.E.C. please go to http://www.lwvweston.org
STATE ELECTIONS ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION
State Elections Enforcement Commission
June 20, 2018 Meeting
Recorded On: 6/20/2018
Chair. of 5-member S.E.E.C. (l)
Executive Director (c) and staff attorney report on
S.E.E.C.cases/complaints going back to 2016 Election including some we
think we remember!
(This is the meeting where Gubernatorial (R) Boughton and Herbst
quaified for $$ from C.E.P.and lots of others too plus some who didn't
yet - this was done at the end of the lengthy meeting.)
Executive Session after initial discussion in open session re: work
load...and interim q&a with entity below when Commission comes out
of Executive Session explicitly to announce decision about holding
Indivisible Greenwich and Indivisible Shoreline speak. S.E.E.C. Attorney responded.
Question regarding this will be discussed at a Public Hearing.
"Invisibles" thank Commission but want fast answer - my interpretation
of the discussion - after listening twice).
Score two and a half for D and half of one for R...
Grass roots, unions and PACs - all use same techniques - contributions
in the dark changing hands??? As it is said of investigations
generally, follow the money...
CT Ethics Advisory Board
BREAKING NEWS: http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-uconn-edsall-ethics-court-hearing-20180717-story.html
Is it a "rat" if you stick something into a bill and the other Party doesn't blow a whistle?
- Is it a "rat?" All the finger prints of one - but this
example is where the Legislative Branch is playing a trick on the
Executive Branch. But of course, we're not talking about the playing fields
of Eton here, where"football" means soccer...and you can't use your
- Just kick the bill thru the goal post (r). ETHICS postponement: "A
court hearing scheduled for Wednesday on UConn's fight to overturn a
state ethics board ruling barring football coach Randy Edsall's son from
coaching on his staff has been postponed until September." is the opening line in this article.
- Basketball at UCONN is also front and center at a different "watchdog agency."
DECEMBER 21, 2017 MEETING...http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ctnplayer.asp?odID=14844
Looking to involve new members and minimize waste of resources.
Executive Director Carson and staff
Very realistic of where CT is right now. Staff to be employed
educating themselves and others at their own expense (c) as well as
keeping the Commissioners up on the latest laws and getting work out of
Excellent, short (under an hour) meeting. New member (not
pictured) wants to propose legislation after review of 169 towns' ethics
mechanisms. Job for a sub-committee?
ABOUT TOWN SUGGESTS THIS FOR A METHODOLOGY FOR SUCH A SUB-COMMITTEE:
ONE POSSIBLE ACTION: Contact those Towns without Boards of Ethics
and offer advice (free) as well as links to Model Code for their
reference. Involve media in promoting action.
- Use existing data base to group towns into those who have their
own CODE and those who use some other method (i.e. reference in
town code to CT Statutes on conflict of interest);
- Confirm with CT State Register and Manuel prior to attempting to
review 169 local website or contacting Town Clerk's office if this is
- How do local Codes differ? How are they similar?
(Check names of sections; check minutes if available on Town
websites to determine numbers of meetings, hearings, other).
- What is the recourse in a town that does not have its own Board of Ethics for complaints to be filed?
- Does the Ethics Advisory Board offer non-binding advice to those
who might want it in those towns without their own Boards of Ethics?
Weston is one of those towns that has both a Code of Ethics as well as a
Board of Ethics to respond to issues/requests for informal as well as
SPOT CHECK FOR LOCAL OFFICIALS
Meeting notice; a previous meeting has elected officers and had held an executive session. We do not attend these meetings.
What does Town of Weston consider its "Code of Ethics?"
Do you know the definition of "personal interest" in our code?
How about this part of the Code itself?
And Weston Board of Ethics get new members.
COMING THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2016: http://ctmirror.org/2016/09/12/wade-faces-subpoena-in-cigna-conflict-of-interest-question/
WE WILL WATCH IT OURSELVES IF WE CAN FIND IT
Report from CT MIRROR: http://ctmirror.org/2016/09/15/wade-to-recuse-herself-from-anthem-cigna-review/
As we read report, from CT MIRROR, it seems to us that the
fine hand of government administration, thanks to this being an
election year state-wide, decided that this was a no-win for the
Governor or indirectly for his Party.
Nominations for Chair. and Vice-Chair. - new Vice-Chair at right
above. We watched a rerun of the CT Ethics Advisory Board meeting
2016, and found that thanks to the dire situation re: CT budget,
has left "watchdogs" to their own devices, eliminating the job of
Governor-controlled staff individual, and instead relying on budget cuts
to keep these agencies at arms length. FYI - these agencies,
according to statute are not supposed to be subject to budget cuts for
obvious reasons (i.e. staff salaries cut, making legal actions harder to
bring in a timely manner). What was discussed at this
meeting were the ramifications of the presently illegal cuts, and how
the "watchdog" agencies are actually being creative in merging some
common elements to save $$.
And it was with some interest that we listened to the advice from
counsel to continue with response to we think we heard Common Cause or
another group of similar standing and repute. Even though the
Washington D.C. government was announced as coming out against the
merger above noted. And another interesting report was about
effectiveness of media and training report by staff - who made it short
90 Requests for Opinion in a month
Executive Director explains that this agency has nine (9) members with
only a bare majority allowed (sounds like the Weston way). Also,
that the meeting in September when the Anthem-Cigna merger opinion re:
recusal is scheduled comes just prior to reappointment date for two
Commissioners...and that the two (2) present vacancies (Majority leaders
of House and Senate) would create potentially too many vacancies for
effective functioning of the Ethics group.
Senator Fasano's letter to AG
GOV. MALLOY GIVES IN, RELEASES $$
WE DON'T REPORT ON THIS BOARD
Was this cancellation (l) the result of what the F.O.I. "101" session (r) advised?
Not that we heard. Of
course, any private consultation after the meeting would be just that -
private. Of the eleven exemptions to the F.O.I. Act, would one have
applied to this?