CTSPJ President’s Statement on Task Force Recommendations

The Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public’s Right to Know met for the last time Jan. 24 and approved its final report.

Click here to download a PDF version of the report.

The final recommendations from the task force represent a compromise regarding the different viewpoints from the 17 members. The compromise recommends the legislature allow for review — but not release — of certain criminal records, which are now entirely exempt from disclosure under Public Act 13-311.

My support of the compromise comes reluctantly, as I do not agree with its recommendations. However, I supported the compromise because I believed it was the lesser of two evils.

A revision to the state’s FOI act approved by the Connecticut General Assembly in 2013 added unnecessary restrictions to the release of public information regarding crimes. When asked to appoint four members to the task force, the Connecticut Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (CTSPJ) did so with the hope of regaining all of the transparency that was lost.

My first choice would have been to repeal Public Act 13-311 and revert the FOI Act to its existence prior to June 2013. I supported a compromise because it allows review — albeit under burdensome circumstances — and provides a window into possible release.

The task force was stacked with members who indicated they wanted to see MORE restrictions on the release of public records. FOI and press advocates were in the minority. It became clear the best chance at getting movement away from a bad law would be to meet in the middle.

The Task Force held public hearings — an important step that was ignored during the crafting and approval of Public Act 13-311. After hearing broad and balanced testimony, the Task Force came to the consensus that the law needs to be changed.

Public Act 13-311 is not appropriate. It lacks the transparency required in our democracy. While not ideal, the compromise is a shift in the right direction — one supported by even those on the board who initially wanted more restrictions.

The following are my main concerns with the current recommendations:

  • The standard for release should be Perkins, not Favish. The burden should not be on the public to prove a record should be public, as the Favish standard requires. Both Public Act 13-311 as it exists, or the task force’s proposed use of the Favish standard bring Connecticut to the bottom half of the state FOI spectrum in regards to openness and transparency.
  • The addition of 911 calls to the Task Force recommendation is a bad idea. The legislature wisely left 911 calls out of the original act.

I hope this Task Force recommendation is a first step toward a widespread conversation about the need for open government and a move back to the respected FOI Act our state has long had.


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