Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Minutes, March 22, 2017
The meeting was at Wood-n-Tap, 99 Sisson Ave., Hartford.
Present: Dan Klau, Dick Ahles, Morgan McGinley, Jim Smith, Gary Gold, Mitch Pearlman, Michele Jacklin, Jeff Daniels, Zach Janowski, Mary Connolly, Paula Pearlman, Tom Scheffey, John Bailey.
The minutes of the Feb. 15, 2017 meeting were accepted.
Treasurer’s report: Klau distributed an early report on dues collection. So far, $3,600 has been collected.
Legislative report: Bailey reported the historical records bill is facing trouble again. Public access to old records to allow historical research should not be controversial but it has become that with the Connecticut legislature. CCFOI’s efforts on this began in response to an inquiry about the mental health records of Civil War soldiers that are held by the state. There is even opposition to the release of the records of Amy Archer Gilligan, the mass murderer who was the inspiration for Arsenic and Old Lace. She died in 1962.
Paula Pearlman said the biggest legislative concern facing the FOI Commission is the budget. The governor has proposed cutting an already skeletal budget.
Daniels reported on the governor’s revised proposal on the treatment of young adults, ages 18 to 20, by the state justice system when they are charged for nonviolent crimes. Under the proposal, police and court records would be erased provided the offender does not commit another crime for four years. Klau asked Daniels to distribute an ACLU analysis of the proposal by email. CCFOI is opposed to decreasing public access to court and arrest records.
Paula Pearlman and Bailey reported on legislative efforts to put some limits on so-called vexatious users of the FOI act. This has been an ongoing interest for legislators. FOIC will offer language that will allow public agencies to petition for relief from vexatious users in limited circumstances. CCFOI unanimously voted to support the FOIC language.
Because quick action is needed, a motion was approved to authorize our legislative committee to decide whether CCFOI should take a position on two pending bills. One, brought to our attention by the Connecticut Health Investigative Team, involves the release of immunization rate data. C-HIT has been trying to get this data. At present, statewide and county data is released. The legislation would require the release of immunization rates for each public and private school. The other bill is “An Act Concerning Access to Water Planning Information.” Since 2003, water companies have had broad exemption for security purposes from the FOI Act, interfering with public planning and customer rights. The pending legislation would make that exemption more specific to security issues.
Comptroller Kevin Lembo: Klau reported on a meeting of various groups with Lembo, who plans to analyze business incentive programs run by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Klau said it is “more good government than open government.” A motion was approved to authorize Klau’s participation on behalf of CCFOI.
Annual meeting: Last year’s event at the Pond House was a success. Klau will contact Treasurer George Lombardi to discuss arrangements for this year’s annual meeting.
CFOG Sunshine Week sessions: Mitch Pearlman reported that teams of journalists and lawyers went to four colleges and four high schools. He said it was a “monumental success.” All involved want to do it again. Pearlman said Connecticut high schools teach civics in the fall and teachers would prefer future sessions to be in the fall.
Looking ahead: The next CCFOI meeting will be April 19 at noon at Wood-n-Tap.