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Hartford Council Wants To Review Freedom Of Information Appeals

By STEVEN GOODE and AMANDA FALCONE

April 15, 2010

HARTFORD

The city has spent more than $200,000 in the past 18 months appealing state Freedom of Information Commission rulings that documents must be made public.

Because of that, the city council has asked Mayor Eddie A. Perez not to authorize any more FOI appeals without first getting council approval. The resolution, approved 7-2 Monday, also mandates that FOI Commission fines imposed on city employees must be paid by the employees, not the city.

The resolution was directed at Corporation Council John Rose, whose office has been on the losing end of a long list of FOI commission rulings. The most recent one involves documents requested by a city resident relating to the termination of a city police officer.

Council President Pedro Segarra, who voted for the measure, said Wednesday that it's important for taxpayers and city employees to know that the council takes the state's open government law seriously, and that if someone ignores the commission's orders to release documents, "they'll be on the hook."

In the most recent case involving Rose, the commission agreed Wednesday to give him more time to release documents to a hearing officer regarding disciplinary actions against Matthew Secore, a Hartford police officer who was terminated and then reinstated after punching the mayor's nephew in 2007.

Rose provided only a few of the requested documents when asked by a city resident, claiming other documents were covered by attorney-client privilege. A hearing officer recommended that Rose make public the documents and pay a $1,000 fine. The commission opted Wednesday to put off a decision on the fines and give Rose a second chance. Hartford resident and blogger Kevin Brookman filed the complaint. Rose could not be reached for comment.

Council Majority Leader rJo Winch, who with council member Calixto Torres voted against the resolution, said Wednesday that it was unfair to single out Rose and the corporation counsel's office. Winch said the resolution should apply to all city departments or none.

"If city employees are going to make bad decisions, make them all pay," Winch said. "Then you won't have anyone making any decisions anymore."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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