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FOI And Republican Anti-Corruption Proposals

Kelly -- Senate Republicans

The Democrat Party in Connecticut has ruled the General Assembly roost for decades, and the party of Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey – i.e. John Bailey, the last real Democrat political boss in Connecticut --  has made no apologies for frustrating both minority Republicans and Connecticut voters represented by the GOP.

Occasionally, the dominant party petitions the minority to support its infrequent bipartisan measures. In one-party states such as Connecticut, it is not argumentation in deliberative bodies that carries the day, but rather sheer numbers and the approbation of those who shape public opinion. Opinion influencers the world over tend to lounge sleepily in the trough of incumbency, partly for business reasons. Just as you cannot get water from a stone, so, if you are a media outlet, you cannot get news from a party out of power.

In a recent news story – “CT Republicans call for increased transparency and accountability in government spendingthe minority party appears to have touched  a raw nerve of Freedom of Information proponents --  i.e., every responsible news man and woman in Connecticut who believes that more information is better than less information.

Although the Freedom of Information statute is long, in keeping with laws written by lawyers with jeweler’s loops screwed to their eye balls, the nub of the law may be found in Sec. 1-210. (Formerly Sec. 1-19) under “Access to public records.”

“Except as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to (1) inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours, (2) copy such records in accordance with subsection (g) of section 1-212, or (3) receive a copy of such records in accordance with section 1-212. Any agency rule or regulation, or part thereof, that conflicts with the provisions of this subsection or diminishes or curtails in any way the rights granted by this subsection shall be void. Each such agency shall keep and maintain all public records in its custody at its regular office or place of business in an accessible place and, if there is no such office or place of business, the public records pertaining to such agency shall be kept in the office of the clerk of the political subdivision in which such public agency is located or of the Secretary of the State, as the case may be. Any certified record hereunder attested as a true copy by the clerk, chief or deputy of such agency or by such other person designated or empowered by law to so act, shall be competent evidence in any court of this state of the facts contained therein.

The gist of the law may be summed up as follows:  “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. (Luke 8:17)

To put the Biblical injunction in secular terms: In a representative republic, citizens should know who and what they are voting for. Exposure, cleansing sunlight, is the best disinfectant. For nearly 50 years – the Freedom of information statute was passed in 1975 -- Connecticut’s vigilant media has stood, with flaming sword drawn, at the entrance to the state’s FOI law, assuring entré to all, and many are the politicians who have in the intervening years sworn fealty to the law.

Connecticut Republicans are now asking the defenders of the FOI statute to come to attention once again, according to a recent news story in a Hartford paper. In keeping with the spirit of FOI legislation, Republican leaders of the Connecticut Senate are plotting to unveil “a slew of policy proposals Thursday to increase transparency of municipal and state disbursements of taxpayer dollars and federal funding in an announcement that coincided with National Sunshine Week and Freedom of Information Day.”

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly has lifted a fig leaf on federal gifting in Connecticut: “We are seeing on a repeated basis different issues where government funds are either misappropriated, not appropriated, or put somewhere that wasn’t the original intent. We need to respect the sacrifice that Connecticut families make every day to send tax dollars to Hartford.”

All this sounds suspiciously like a call to arms, a reification of the spirit of Connecticut’s half century year old FOI legislation.

According to the news story, Republicans are proposing: 1) “Connecticut State Department of Transportation to dedicate a portion of its website to explain what funds the state has received, how much has been spent and on what, the current status of projects, including their completion dates and whether they are under or over budget and why.” 2) “that the DOT submit quarterly reports of all spending to the Transportation, Environment, Appropriations, Finance, Revenue and Bonding, and Government Administration and Elections Committees.” 3) that “Chief executive officers of each Connecticut municipality would also need to submit quarterly reports of pandemic relief and stimulus expenditures to the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management and set a threshold for approval for payments to any one vendor. and 4) that “a State Accountability Office headed by a Democrat and Republican appointed Chief Accountability Officers to oversee state, quasi-public and municipal disbursement of public funds that would report to the Attorney General or the Chief State’s Attorney when they believe a law has been violated.”

All these procedures would make the General Assembly, the Governor’s office, watchdog administrators, and even municipal leaders responsible for the distribution of state and federal funds in Connecticut, Apart from responsive government that must account to the people during elections, there can be no responsible government, but merely a pretext for corruption at every level of government. 

Thus far, no voices have been raised against such measures, fully in keeping with the spirit of FOI legislation, that will provide sufficient public sunlight to disinfect corrupt activities on the part of sly politicians, not all of them Democrats.


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