Connecticut Foundation for Open Government Adds New Board Members, Elects Officers

The Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) added seven new members to its Board of Directors and elected a slate of officers for the statewide organization in July 2018.

CFOG is a broad-based, nonpartisan organization intent on preserving and protecting the people’s right to know in the conduct of the public’s business. The organization is dedicated to promoting the open and accountable government essential in a democratic society. It seeks to achieve this by educating policymakers and citizens in general on the need for a free flow of information on all public policy matters.

CFOG provides educational programs for state residents on open government issues, offers an instructional curriculum for high school students and other interested groups and organizations, and additional programs to encourage discussion of First Amendment issues.  CFOG programs are open to the public, and the organization’s website,, provides news, resources and related information on the subject.

“Our mission has never been more important than it is today.  CFOG’s driving vision has consistently been to firmly establish the cornerstone of democracy: open government processes overseen by an informed and engaged citizenry in Connecticut,” said CFOG president Bernard Kavaler.

Elected to the Board of the non-profit organization for the first time:

Abigail Albair is the manager of Marketing & Development for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, a non-profit organization dedicated to the health and wellness of the community that serves more than 30 towns in southern Connecticut. She is the former executive editor of Turley Publications, which publishes 16 weekly and 7 monthly publications in the Greater Hartford region and Western Massachusetts. 

Len Besthoff is the chief investigative reporter for NBC Connecticut, where he has been since 2013.  His stories often use data, records, and whistleblowers to expose waste, corruption, and wrongdoing. He advocates for protecting and improving our state’s Freedom of Information statutes. Len just marked his 30th year as a television reporter, including positions at WFSB-TV, WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina, WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, News12 Connecticut in Norwalk, and TV-34 News in Wall Township, New Jersey.

Vanessa de la Torre is a reporter at Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR) in Hartford, covering race, identity and culture for the public radio collaborative “Sharing America.” Previously, she spent 11 years at the Hartford Courant newspaper, where her investigative storytelling on Hartford education won regional awards and national recognition from the Education Writers Association. Vanessa is a graduate of Princeton University and Stanford University’s master’s program in journalism.

David DesRoches finds and tells stories about education and related topics for Connecticut Public Radio (WNPR). He also teaches journalism and media literacy to middle and high school students. A native of central Virginia and two-time New England “Reporter of the Year”, David’s special education reporting for The Darien Times has been cited as one of the most comprehensive explorations of disability rights among children in the Unites States. He was named to Connecticut Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list in 2015, and he’s received nearly two-dozen state, regional and national awards for his work. His reporting interests include the school-to-prison pipeline, disability rights, countercultural movements, First Amendment freedoms, and government transparency. Before journalism, David ran a flyer distribution company, started a non-profit media organization in Ethiopia, and taught songwriting to people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Paul Giguere is the Vice President of Connecticut Nonprofit Alliance. He is responsible for finance, operations, and administration of the largest nonprofit membership organization in the State of Connecticut, as well as directing the Preferred Purchasing Program, grants and contracts. As an experienced executive, compassionate leader, strategic thinker and tactical builder, he pursues ways to make the world a better place through thoughtful, creative, efficient initiatives.  Previously, Paul founded and led the Connecticut Public Affairs Network for 20 years, which developed and managed CT-N, the state’s version of C-SPAN. 

Ronni Newton is the managing editor of A resident of West Hartford since 1998, she’s been an active member of the community as a journalist. She is the former editor of West Hartford Patch and the recipient of two first-place awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. She has also worked as managing editor for lifestyle magazines, freelanced as a writer and copyeditor. Ronni’s past professional experience includes a stint as a vice president in the role of consultant/client manager in the insurance industry.

Harry Weller is a retired Senior Assistant State’s Attorney who worked as an appellate prosecutor for more than 30 years. Weller served as either lead attorney or consultant on every capital case prosecuted in Connecticut since 1994. In 2005, he was named Connecticut Prosecutor of the year. Along with training prosecutors locally and nationally, he speaks often to civic groups and students. Harry teaches an appellate clinic at the UConn School of Law. He also teaches advocacy as a visiting professor at Bar Ilan Law School in Israel and to interns for Shurat Hadin, a non-profit anti-terrorism organization. Recently he authored one chapter of the 2016 edition of Connecticut Criminal Procedure.

Elected as 2018-19 CFOG officers are: President – Bernard Kavaler, managing principal of Express Strategies and editor of the Connecticut by the Numbers website; First Vice President – David Fink, consultant for the Partnership for Strong Communities; Second Vice President – Tom Puleo, instructor, Central Connecticut State University; Secretary – Mitchell Pearlman, former executive director and general counsel of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission; Treasurer – Michele Jacklin, former reporter/columnist for The Hartford Courant and Glastonbury Town Council member. 

Joining the officers in serving on the Executive Committee are board members Aaron Bayer, Arielle Levin Becker, Gary Gold, Joy Haenlein, Daniel Klau, Paul Marks and Colleen Murphy.

Also re-elected to serve on the CFOG board are Robert Frahm, Denis Horgan, Kevin Lembo, Janet Manko, Martin Margulies, Morgan McGinley, Stephen Nevas, Paula Pearlman, Mike Savino, Tom Scheffey, Mary Schwind, Marie K. Shanahan, James Smith, Christine Stuart and Catie Talarski.