The Secrecy in Government Awards – CCFOI

March 14, 2016  In recognition of national Sunshine Week
Contact: James H. Smith, 203-915-9428; jhsmithy@comcast.net

The First Annual Secrecy in Government Awards offered by the board of directors of the nonprofit Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information.

Governor Dan Malloy’s heart may be in the right place, but his head isn’t. Proposing secret jurisprudence for 18-20 year olds is a bad idea. They can vote, they can go to war, they can get married and have children – but if they’re arrested and go to court no one can know about it?  And once they are adjudicated secretly, then they can have their record erased as if it never happened. Too many in Connecticut government — like the Soviets who air brushed away photos of anyone they wanted forgotten — think you can erase history. You can’t. The U.S. and Connecticut constitutions guarantee a public trial. Democratic societies do not countenance secret arrests. The Connecticut General Assembly needs to quash this well-meaning but democratically unwise plan.

UConn President Susan Herbst, Board of Trustees Chairman Lawrence D. McHugh and UConn Foundation President and CEO Joshua R. Newton receive the Secrecy in Government award for their continuous march toward closing the door on the public when they decide how to spend the public’s money. Newton tells the legislature that the Foundation needs secrecy even as the other premiere public university foundations in New England are open and subject to their states’ FOI laws. Herbst and McHugh defended secret sessions on the $1.3 billion UConn budget knowing most of the money comes  from the public. UConn has even threatened to go to court to try to obtain more secrecy. We suggest they don’t spend taxpayer money fighting in court to keep their financial deliberations away from the public.

Paul Cianelli, president of the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association receives the award for his newspeak — “Make no mistake about it — this is a tax,” in opposing CT-N’s plan to move to a cable channel and expand from two cameras at the Capitol to the ability to cover nearly all legislative, judicial and executive branch hearings. It will open government processes for all to see. A C-SPAN for Connecticut for about 40 cents a month for cable subscribers. Tax indeed.

The Norwalk Board of Education receives the Secrecy in Government Award for its astonishing written policy that, it “does not exist between meetings.” This allows board members to do board business between meetings and claim their actions are not subject to FOI laws. We hope board chair Michael Lyons follows through with his plan to erase that bylaw.

CCFOI has been serving the public since 1955. James H. Smith, president; Dick Ahles, vice president; Mary Connolly, secretary; George Lombardi, treasurer.

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