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.


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