Saturday, April 28, 2012

Your letter may become a public document

When the state Department of Education recently sought the public’s input on Gov. Dan Malloy’s proposed education reform, a friend of mine who works as an education manager at a nonprofit that helps schools build science programs sent in a letter sharing his thoughts.
Shortly after sending his letter to the state agency, he received a call from a reporter at the CT Mirror. He was somewhat taken aback by this, not immediately realizing that when you write a letter to a public agency, it becomes a public document.
In fact, anything you send to a public agency becomes a public document, subject to the Freedom of Information Act, the second the agency receives it. Exceptions would be documents excluded under the FOI Act, such as those containing trade secrets, pending litigation or details about minors. But even then, the letter itself may be released to the media or the general public, with the exempt details redacted.
The section of the FOI Act that talks about public documents says “…any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency…” and goes on to say this is the case “whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.”

CT Mirror reporter Jacqueline Rabe Thomas says in an email that she requested e-mails sent to the State Department of Education in response to the state's proposed ESEA wavier under the Freedom of Information Act and was granted access to view these documents the very next day.

One of these emails was from my friend.  And while  he was shocked at first, he said that deep down he had a suspicion his letter might be made public. He just didn’t reflect on it until he got the reporter’s call. And when he did, he willingly spoke to the reporter and ended up being quoted in this CT Mirror story.


Anonymous Michelle Germann said...

Great article! I am sure this is going to help a lot of people.

November 22, 2012 at 3:55 AM 

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