Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Annual Meeting Minutes, June 18, 2014
The meeting was at the Hartford Club, 46 Prospect St., Hartford.
The minutes of the May 21, 2014, meeting were accepted.
Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer George Lombardi reported a current balance of $15,426.77, down from $16,238.02 on July 1, 2013.
Legislative Report: Legislative Chair Claude Albert reported on the 2014 legislative session. He said the FOI community was fractured by a proposal that came out of a state task force on privacy and FOI. Some argued against support for any new limits on access. This was the CCFOI position. Others argued it might be necessary to accept new limits to avoid harsher limits. The task force proposal, however, did not come to a vote in the legislature. Because the legislature did not act, limits on access to 911 recordings adopted last year expired because they were sunseted. Albert said this was a “major win.”
Paula Pearlman, staff attorney of the Freedom of Information Commission, presented her report on the legislative session. She said there were numerous anti-FOI proposals. “Ultimately,” Pearlman said, “most of the notable legislation that would have affected the cause of open and accessible government was defeated.”
This is a link to Pearlman’s report: http://www.ct.gov/foi/cwp/
Chris VanDeHoef, CCFOI’s lobbyist, said it was a challenging year. He thanked CCFOI President Jim Smith, Claude Albert and the FOIC staff for their work.
VanDeHoef said in an election year controversial issues generally aren’t taken up and this worked in our favor. Legislative leaders anticipated a split vote when they appointed the task force. The testimony against the task force recommendations by Senate President Don Williams was very helpful. “At the end of the day,” VanDeHoef said, “it was a victory.”
Election of officers: The incumbents were nominated and re-elected. They are President Jim Smith, Vice President Dick Ahles, Secretary Mary Connolly, Treasurer George Lombardi and Legislative Chair Claude Albert.
Awards: CCFOI’s annual awards were presented.
Champion of Open Government Awards were given to Tom Hennick of the FOI Commission, state Sen. Edward Meyer and Hugh McQuaid of CTNewsJunkie. Hennick conducts FOI training sessions around the state and is the person who responds to inquiries to the commission about FOI. Meyer, who is retiring, was one of two senators to vote against the 2013 limits on FOI adopted by the legislature. McQuaid was honored for his coverage of the task force deliberations.
The Bice Clemow Award, given each year to a nonjournalist who promotes transparency, was given to South Windsor Police Chief Matthew Reed. The chief said he came to understand the importance of transparency when he was doing his own research on law enforcement issues. He has become an FOI advocate among his peers.
The Stephen Collins Memorial Award, given each year to journalists who work on open government issues, was awarded to Andy Thibault. He writes a weekly column for the Register Citizen of Torrington and other 21st Century Media Co. newspapers. He covered every FOI issue this year. His work was instrumental in ensuring an open clemency hearing for convicted murderer Bonnie Foreshaw. He uncovered a 25-year-old letter from a public defender saying she did not have adequate legal representation at her trial.
New business: Vince Valvo proposed a review of CCFOI’s effectiveness. He said CCFOI argues philosophy and opponents play politics. He said perhaps a public relations campaign is needed, or a political action committee. After discussion, it was agreed to appoint a committee to consider these issues and report to CCFOI’s next meeting in September. The volunteers are Dan Klau (who will serve as chair), Mike London, Tom Scheffey, Vince Valvo, Claude Albert and Jim Smith.
Looking ahead: Next meeting will be Sept. 17.