Sunday, March 23, 2014

Video from FOI class for reporters in Middletown

Tom Hennick, public information officer at the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, spoke to reporters in Middletown on March 21 about what is and isn't available to the public under the state's open records laws.

"For democracy to work, people need to know what's going on," Hennick said.

Hennick also offered the following tips:
- Under FOI law, an agency doesn't have to answer questions. But it does have to provide access to public documents and public meetings
- If a board says it's going into executive session, ask why and they should be able to tell you one of five reasons.
- Board members have to start meeting in public, then vote to go into executive session
- "It's just a workshop" or "it's just a task force" are not excuses for not following FOI meeting law. It is still a public meeting.
- Some towns are camera shy, but if it's a public meeting you can take photos or record what is being said
- Open meeting law guarantees access to meetings, does not give you the right to speak at meetings
- Executive level search committee can meet in private under FOI law. Binding arbitration hearings are public
- Bids and RFPs can be kept from public until contract is signed
-  If someone tells you what happened in executive session or you overhear part of it, you can report it without breaking any laws
- One frustration for reporters is FOI law does not necessarily help you meet deadline. Complaints take time, but they are still important

Video from the event is available in two parts:

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