By Kevin Rothstein, producer/Investigations, WFXT Fox 25, Dedham, Mass.
After former congressional candidate Jeff Perry was hired by the Barnstable Sheriff’s Office to a $110,000-a-year job, the sheriff brushed off criticism of his new hire’s background by saying he had hired an investigator to examine Perry’s role in the strip-search of a teenager while Perry was a police officer. FOX 25 investigative reporter Mike Beaudet asked for a copy of the investigator’s report, and when that request was denied, he appealed to the Secretary of State. Despite earlier rulings that portions of police internal affairs reports should be public, the Secretary of State ruled that the sheriff’s investigative report about Perry constituted a personnel record and therefore was not a public record. Read more here.
By Doug Clifton, treasurer, New England First Amendment Coalition
Vermont, it seems, has always been a bit timid when it comes to government transparency. When it marched boldly into the world of openness back in 1975 it exempted all cities, towns, villages and counties from the Public Records Law.
Compliance — letting citizens in on the work of government — the legislators argued, would be too onerous a burden on Vermont’s hundreds of hamlets. Happily that enormous exemption lasted only a year. But in the 35 years since, the state has added exemption after exemption to the code, more than 200.
This year, for the first time in many, a move is on to strengthen the law. As it now stands a citizen who successfully sues to gain access to a withheld public record “MAY” be awarded attorney’s fees. But so rarely do courts award fees the law may as well be silent on the issue. Continue reading ‘Vt. cities fight court fees in public records cases’ »
By Dan Kennedy, assistant professor of journalism, Northeastern University
When state officials pay someone to go away, they often pay for that person’s silence, too. That’s what Boston Globe reporter Todd Wallack found in a review of “more than 150 large severance and settlement agreements signed by state agencies since 2005.” Continue reading ‘In Massachusetts, silence is truly golden’ »
By Jim Smith, retired Connecticut journalist and officer of Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Where has wisdom fled to in American politics? With all the rancor and clamor across the land over how literally broke government is at all levels, are we relying more on expediency at the expense of a deliberative commitment to our ideals? Don’t we still believe that democratic government exists for the good of the people, the individual — not for the ambitions of the governor, the Speaker of the House, or the President?
So, if it is necessary to tighten our belts in this time of economic peril, let’s do it in places that will least damage government of, by and for the people. Let’s not cut corners over what the people can know about those who govern, how our elections are conducted, and inquiries into alleged ethical lapses of public officials
Yet Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in his mostly admirable plan to cut the state deficit, has for some odd reason proposed a minuscule savings (perhaps $1.5 million) by putting the important but small agencies dealing with freedom of information, elections, and ethics under one inherently conflicted, politically appointed commissioner. It is not a smart move, probably won’t save money and raises questions about the governor’s commitment to transparency in government. Our new governor goes around talking about the importance of transparency, but folding the over-worked but highly regarded Freedom of Information Commission into a mega-agency belies his rhetoric. Continue reading ‘Gov. Malloy’s bad idea for Conn.’ »