Not Many Took the FOI Pledge

By James H. Smith
President, Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information 

The Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information fights for open government in many ways. As Gov. Ella Grasso’s 1975 law has been chipped away at and assaulted from virtually every corner of state and local government, CCFOI decided to issue an FOI Pledge to the 360 candidates for state legislative and Constitutional office. Letters went out by snail mail to the campaign addresses of the candidates.

Ninety percent chose not to respond.

CCFOI reissued the pledge in January. Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman signed, following State Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s original statement during the campaign: “where do I sign.” Likewise, Deputy Speaker of the House Peggy Sayers, D-Windsor Locks, noted that, “Gov. Grasso held this seat when she served as a state representative and it is only fitting that I support her legislation.”

All told, 37 candidates for office signed the pledge. Today, 29 incumbents are signers, including 24 Democrats and five Republicans from every corner of the state.

The Connecticut Constitution, Article Third, Section 16 states:  The debates of each house shall be public, except on such occasions as in the opinion of the house may require secrecy.

The FOI Pledge mirrors those words:
“I will support and protect Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, including the independence of the state’s unique Freedom of Information Commission, and oppose weakening it.

If proposals are made to limit public access, I will, within my authority, ensure such proposals are subjected to public processes, including public hearings, and will support such changes only when the public’s interest in non-access to records or proceedings clearly outweighs the public’s interest in access.”

So there was a way out. Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield, signed the pledge, but took the way out when he voted against legislation to require the University of Connecticut Foundation be subject to the FOI laws.

Other said upon signing:

  • “As a strong supporter of our FOI statutes I sign your FOI pledge,” said state Sen. Paul Doyle, D-Middletown, deputy majority leader and co-chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee.
  • “I support the CT FOI process without reservation,” said state Rep. Tim LeGeyt, R-Avon, Canton and an assistant minority leader.
  • “I commit to the pledge. Thank you!” said state Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, East Haven and assistant majority whip.
  • “I am happy to sign the pledge,” said state Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk and co-chairman of the legislature’s Commerce Committee

Too bad more officials didn’t.

The signers: