Tuesday, October 23, 2012

State Supreme Court agrees to consider FOI case

The state Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case which will have an impact on reporters' ability to get police reports in a timely fashion.
The Appellate Court recently agreed with the state police’s contention that if they put out a press release, regardless of how little information it contains, they have done enough to comply with state Freedom of Information law.
The Supreme Court will consider whether the Appellate Court's ruling was proper in the coming months.
The New Haven Register had lodged a complaint with the state Freedom of Information Commission after state police refused to release a police report on a near fatal attack on Route 8 in Derby in 2008, when Toai Nguyen severely beat his father. The commission sided with the New Haven Register.
The Department of Public Safety appealed to the Superior Court, and Judge Henry Cohn, a former assistant attorney general, sided with the state police, who were represented by Stephen Sarnoski, a current assistant attorney general. Cohn’s ruling prompted the appeal to the Appellate Court.
The New Haven Register did eventually receive the police report, but it took several months.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Superintendent contracts - about halfway there

FOI requests made: 144
Superintendent contracts received: 75 (see them HERE)
Reminders sent out: 8
Best response time: 12 minutes (Wolcott)
Longest response time: 37 days (Torrington)
Total cost: $7.50 (Amity)

And here's where we stand in terms of response times as of Oct. 22:FOIresponse10_22

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FOI commission to hold hearing on complaint over Rowland documents

The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission has scheduled a hearing Nov. 6 on a complaint by the New Haven Register and The Register Citizen that the city of Waterbury has failed to produce documents related to former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland’s job as a taxpayer-funded economic development coordinator. CLICK HERE for full story.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Superintendent contracts coming in from all over Connecticut

The contracts are on their way! 
This is how I try to keep track of it all.

Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at the New Haven Register and I spent several hours this week requesting copies of school superintendent contracts. So far, we've filed requests for 52 of them in a three-day period, out of about 147 districts in the state, if my notes are accurate.

As of Friday afternoon, we had received contracts from 28 of those districts. Many of the contracts were sent to us within 24 hours of our request, and many sent directly by the school chiefs themselves.

Most superintendents willingly and speedily gave up the contracts, and only two asked questions, noting that we are not obligated to answer them. The slowest school district to release a superintendent contract so far was Torrington. That contract was requested for by another reporter for another story at the end of August, and we just received it on Oct. 6.

What I'm hoping to do is create a searchable database of all superintendents in the state - how much money they make, what their vacation, sick time and mileage benefits are and how many students they supervise in their district.

The contracts are all being posted online, and the goal is to link the database to each superintendent's contract. Here are the contracts we have gotten so far (list updated on 11/9):

Please send an email to vsundqvist@middletownpress.com or leave a comment below if you see anything unusual or have suggestions for any questions you think we should be asking in relation to this project or any other ideas for what data we should try to include while putting this together.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hamden refuses to release settlement amount in police excessive force case

The New Haven Register lodged a complaint Tuesday, Oct. 9 with the Freedom of Information Commission against Hamden for not releasing information on a settlement in an excessive force case against Hamden police.
Nicholas and Stephen Alberino sued several Hamden police officers in 2008 in U.S. District Court, claiming they were “brutally assaulted by a group of Hamden police officers,” in October 2007.
The lawsuit named officers William Onofrio, Angelo DeLieto, Michael DePalma, Dedric Jones, Mark Sheppard, and Michael Mello as defendants, according to the 2010 second amended complaint.
The parties reached a settlement agreement earlier this year. The New Haven Register asked Town Attorney Sue Gruen and the lawyer who handled the case, Scott Karsten, for the settlement amount in August, but they have not supplied the information.
In its complaint to the Freedom of Information Commission, the Register indicated, “The public has a right to know information about a settlement involving litigation which stems from alleged misconduct by public employees. The public has a right to know the amount of a settlement, whether it was directly funded by taxpayer money, or by an insurance settlement in which coverage is paid for by taxpayers.”

Read the Register’s original story on the lawsuit from 2008 here.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Looking at superintendent contracts (updated with more contracts)

Staff at The Middletown Press and The Register Citizen will be gathering and analyzing different contracts of school superintendents in the next few weeks. So far, through Freedom of Information Act requests, we have received the Middletown and Torrington superintendent of schools contracts, available below.

Take a look and tell us if you see anything unusual, anything you want to know more about, if you can suggest any questions we should ask, or know of any particular towns' contracts we should be asking for. Leave a comment below or email us at openrecordsct@journalregister.com. Middletown Superintendent Contract 2012 Torrington Superintendent Contract Plainville Supt. Contract 2011.12 No Haven CheshireSuperContract2012-13 Branford Hh

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information gives out FOI awards

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information has bestowed its annual Stephen A. Collins Award on Tom Appleby, general manager and news director of News 12 Connecticut in Norwalk. CCFOI also awarded its Champion of Open Government Award to Sherman London, a member of the state Freedom of Information Commission and retired editorial page editor of the Waterbury Republican-American.

CCFOI’s Bice Clemow Award, given to public officials for outstanding leadership in “promoting open and accountable government,” went to six public officials, including four who helped lead a broad coalition which successfully kept municipal records, including grand lists and voting lists, from having home addresses redacted for so-called “protected classes” of residents.

Under state law certain “protected” state officials and workers -- judges, prosecutors, prison guards and others – can remove their home addresses from the public portions of their sate personnel files. A state Supreme Court decision expanded that protection to municipal records. The town clerk’s coalition, of which CCFOI was a member, helped get new legislation passed keeping the most critical local records intact and open, as they have been for three hundred years.

The municipal award winners were: Joyce Mascena, Glastonbury town clerk and president of the Connecticut Town Clerk’s Association; Antoinette “Chick” Spinelli, Waterbury town clerk and chairwoman of the association’s Legislative Committee; Essie Labrot, West Hartford town clerk; and Patrick Alair, West Hartford deputy corporation counsel.

Also receiving Clemow awards were Lisa Rein Siegel, the state Freedom of Information Commission lawyer who argued the redacted addresses case before the state Supreme Court; and Mary E. Schwind, the managing director and associate general counsel of the commission. The Clemow award is named for the late, longtime editor and publisher of the West Hartford News.

The Collins award is given in the name of the longtime editorial director of the News-Times in Danbury, who, along with Clemow and others, worked closely with the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso to pass the state Freedom of Information Act in 1975. Appleby was co-chairman (along with then-chief state criminal court Judge Patrick Clifford), of a committee that developed guidelines that now allow still and video cameras in state courtrooms. Apple received the award “for his many contributions to the cause of open and accountable government and a free and vigorous press.”

London, who is 90 and, after 16 years, the longest serving commissioner on the state Freedom of Information Commission, received the Champion award “In recognition of his extraordinary service to the people of the state of Connecticut in preserving, defending and enhancing access to government information essential to a healthy and vibrant democracy.”

The awards were presented at CCFOI’s annual lunch at the Hartford Club June 20. CCFOI is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1955 to advocate for open and accountable government.

State regulations must soon be posted online

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy this summer signed legislation he introduced that will require all state agency regulations to be published on the internet and will be made available for easy access by the public.

“To put it simply, it’s unacceptable that many state regulations are not available electronically,” Malloy said in a press release. “As I’ve said numerous times since I took office last year, Connecticut has lagged behind for too long when it comes to utilizing modern technology. Transitioning the services of state government into the Information Age must be a top priority.”

The new law requires agency regulations to be published on the Office of the Secretary of the State’s website and on the individual regulating agencies’ websites.

“One of the ways we will make Connecticut a better place to do business is to make sure all of our state regulations are available for the public in an easily accessible and updated online format, and that’s what this bill accomplishes,” Malloy said.