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Ventilation At City Hall

Open Government Credit Hartford Mayor Segarra for lifting Eddie Perez's cone of silence

Hartford Courant

August 23, 2010

Former Mayor Eddie Perez was not a great believer in open government.

On some occasions, he would hold meetings in private that should have been public or instruct his administration to withhold requested information. When he'd get slapped down by the state Freedom of Information Commission or the courts, he'd have the city appeal needlessly wasting money on a bad cause.

One such example of government secrecy during the Perez era was a closed meeting at city hall that the mayor held with his Arena Task Force to gauge interest among Hartford business leaders in a new downtown sports and entertainment arena and whether corporate leaders would put up money for luxury boxes.

The meeting clearly had a public purpose and should have been open to the news media. The Courant filed a complaint about the closed doors. The FOI Commission said that Mr. Perez violated the state's public meetings law. The then-mayor appealed to the Superior Court and lost. He then appealed to the state Supreme Court, where the case remained until the mayor withdrew it last week.

Mr. Segarra, unlike his predecessor, has pledged to make open government a hallmark of his time in office. In a release last Friday, the mayor's office said as part of his "initiative to improve communications, relations and transparency," he had directed the corporation counsel's office to review a number of open FOI cases to reassess which ones the city will pursue.

"For instance," the mayor's office said, "the appeal involving the Arena Task Force case is being withdrawn." Mr. Segarra also declared that "it is a priority of this administration that we provide information upon request while following all the appropriate procedures." Bravo, Mr. Segarra. The people's business should be done in public.

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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