As we reported in this morning’s paper, a hearing officer for the state’s Freedom of Information Commission has issued a preliminary ruling finding that Newtown police illegally withheld public access to 911 calls made from inside Sandy Hook Elementary School during the Dec. 14 attack.
The hearing officer, Kathleen K. Ross, chastised Newtown for failing to evaluate whether the records were exempt from disclosure, instead deferring to state prosecutors who instructed the town not to release the tapes.
At a commission hearing in June, nearly six months after the Associated Press sought access to the tapes, Newtown and state officials argued that the recordings should not be released, citing a variety of exemptions, including a claim that releasing the tapes would prejudice a prospective law-enforcement action. Ross rejected all of those assertions, setting up a Sept. 25 hearing at which the full commission will decide whether to adopt Ross’s report.
Lawyers for the state Division of Criminal Justice will be back at the commission’s offices, making the case for why the tapes should not be released. And even if the commission upholds the hearing officer’s report – as they usually do – the state could appeal that decision to Superior Court, a step that would add months if not years to the resolution of the matter.
The full hearing officer’s report appears below.