Below is state Republican Chairman Jerry Labriola’s Friday statement, in full, attacking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on the issue of freedom of information.
The Labriola blast was quoted, in part, in this week’s Government Watch column in The Courant.
The column discusses statements by the governor and members of his administration about their commitment to “transparency” in government — after the revelation during the past week that they had been secretly working for weeks with legislative leaders to draft a bill that would allow some records of the records of the investigation of the Dec. 14 Newtown massacre to be withheld from public disclosure. Such records include audio recordings of 911 emergency calls, which are routinely released by police in Connecticut and throughout the country.
The Courant disclosed the secret drafting of the bill after it obtained an email about it on Tuesday. Legislative leaders were talking about voting on the bill in the House on Wednesday, and did not abandon the idea until that afternoon — after publication of a story about it stirred interest across the country and prompted critics to say that a proposal with so many possible long-term ramifications should be approved through the normal legislative process. That normal process includes legislative committee deliberations and a hearing to gather the views of the general public.
Labriola’s criticism of Malloy involves a number of freedom-of-information issues beyond the participation by Malloy’s office in the drafting of the Newtown bill without the public’s knowledge.
Labriola doesn’t mention in his release that the state Senate’s Republican leader, Sen. John McKinney of Fairfield, whose district includes Newtown, is a leading supporter and defender of the secretly drafted bill. The bill would give the families of Newtown victims veto power over the release of records containing images or descriptions of victims’ injuries, and would block the release of certain other investigative records outright.
Although legislative leaders had been considering voting on the bill, that didn’t happen by week’s end. Now, after a controversy that has included newspaper editorials criticizing both the contents of the bill and the secret process used to draft it, a couple of the officials involved in the bill behind-the-scenes planning have said it’s “only a draft” — and that changes may be made. Votes in the state House and Senate are still possible in the coming week.
Malloy defended the proposal when he spoke to reporters Friday.
Following is Labriola’s statement — with responses below it from Malloy’s communications director, Andrew Doba, and state Democratic Party Executive Director Jonathan Harris:
Labriola Calls Malloy “Foe of FOI”
Republican State Party Chairman Jerry Labriola today said the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), which last night held its annual awards dinner, should recognize Governor Dannel Malloy by naming him as the first recipient of the “Foe of the FOI” award.
“I chose the occasion of the professional journalists’ awards dinner — because they are the protectors of the public’s right to know — to issue this statement about Governor Malloy’s unrelenting and systematic attack on Connecticut’s Freedom of information laws.
“Governor Malloy campaigned for office on a pledge of government transparency and as governor, he is always talking about his commitment to transparency. But his record shows that he has actually done more to undermine our Freedom of Information (FOI) laws than any state official in recent memory.
“Malloy has become the leading foe of FOI – and the legislature’s Democratic majority has been his willing accomplice. He talks the talk on open government and transparency, but forget about walking the walk – but he does everything he can to run away from it.”
Labriola pointed to a litany of examples of Governor Malloy, his Commissioners and members of his Administration systematically violating the spirit of open and honest governing:
1. Malloy has refused to divulge all the terms and background information related to the awarding of hundreds of millions of dollars of state grants and loans to private companies under his “First Five” and other economic development programs. He also expressed concern and initial opposition to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s proposal to make state finances more open a d accessible by having an online data base for tax credits and economic development programs.
2. Malloy’s former Chief Legal Counsel and Supreme Court Nominee, Andrew McDonald, was found to have conducted state business using his person email account so as to avoid public scrutiny.
3. Governor Malloy’s staff, along with Democratic legislative staff and representatives of the Chief State’s Attorney ‘s Office, were caught working in secret to write legislation that will withhold from public view police records and reports related to the tragedy in Newtown. And despite the fact that the legislature is in session, the secret bill will not be subject, when ready, to public review or a public hearing.
4. Malloy has proposed to exempt pardon applications from the Freedom of Information Act and preclude the public from attending hearings of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Members of the public and press also would not have access to pardon applications and other records of the state Board of Pardons and Parole.
5. Malloy merged the three independent state watchdog agencies (Ethics, Elections Enforcement and Freedom of Information) into one entity two years ago and put them under the direction of a gubernatorial appointee who once served as a local Democratic town chairman.
6. The governor also proposed to combine the legal and investigative staffs from the three watchdog agencies as a “cost saving measure,” but made no such reduction proposal for his own office.
7. Malloy’s Majority Senate Democrats rejected a proposal that would have made public the state’s new Deadly Weapons Offender Registry that will identify felons convicted of committing a crime with a gun. The DWO registry will be like the existing sex offender registry — EXCEPT it will not be open to public review — and Malloy signed this anti-right to know provision into law.
8. The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection offered a proposal to charge citizens a fee to review or read a state police report on a car accident or investigation, even if no copy of the report is requested.
Doba, the governor’s director of communications, responded: “This is a lame political stunt. ”
Harris, the executive director for the Connecticut Democratic Party, said: “If Republicans showed as much passion for governing as they do with launching attacks, maybe they would have produced a budget. But we all know that was never going to happen. Producing a budget requires leadership and making tough choices, and on that front they are decidedly lacking.”