In the Newtown Clerk’s Office, a Dishonorable End to Six Months of Lawlessness

by Categorized: Ethics, First Amendment, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Media, Politics, Public Safety, Transparency/FOI, Uncategorized Date:

If you were a government official, how far would you go to push back against a law you disagreed with?

Would you openly defy the law?

Would you be willing to violate your oath of office?

Would you go so far as to badger those who favored enforcement of the law?

Until today, those questions earned a shameful “yes” in the Newtown clerk’s office, where officials for six months illegally withheld access to death certificates after deciding their personal sense of right and wrong trumped the statutory demands of their office.

This morning, the clerks finally relented, turning over dozens of heartbreaking photocopies bearing witness to the sad duty of doctors in the Chief State Medical Examiner’s Office to apply, over and over, a clinical description to the violence that stole so many innocent lives.

As I write this, a reporter is driving back from Newtown with the documents. When they arrive, they’ll be somberly analyzed for anything that might improve our understanding of that awful day – though it’s not likely the sparse documents will do much to peel back the mystery. We will wince at the now-familiar names, and think of the parents that we have come to know, but don’t really know. We’ll do our best to avoid flashes of the terror inside that school. And then the documents will be filed, along with hundreds or thousands of other sheets of paper amassed in our investigation and coverage of this obviously important, internationally significant story. [Update: Courant editors tell me that, following a review of the death certificates, no story will be written based on their content.]

That is what we will do with the records. And the town should have given them to us as soon as we asked last December.

The clerks offered little pretense that their obstructionist stance was legally permissible. Indeed in written testimony to the legislature, Aileen Nosal, Newtown’s assistant town clerk and assistant registrar of vital statistics, acknowledged: “according to current law, these death certificates are public information.”

So Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia and at least some of her underlings took it upon themselves to break the law, flatly refusing to do what the legislature and the courts have ordered.

“Since the tragedy in Newtown,” Assistant Town Clerk Renee Weimann told the legislature, “I’ve been adamant about keeping the death records for those victims unavailable to the public, especially the press.”

The clerks appeared astounded that anyone but close relatives ever seeks to review death certificates. In fact, epidemiologists, journalists and other researchers have been analyzing death records for hundreds of years. It is almost unfathomable that someone who works in the vital records arena wouldn’t know that, and apparently knew nothing of a key Connecticut court case on public access to death records or an important Freedom of Information Commission Advisory Opinion laying out the obligation of local officials in response to requests for copies of death certificates.

At the Courant, death records have proved critical in stories showing that hospitals were concealing deadly medical errors, and in a series just a few months ago linking neglect to the deaths of scores of developmentally disabled individuals under state supervision.

The clerks wanted the law on access to death certificates changed, and had they succeeded, it would have made it harder to hold institutions accountable when they fail to protect the vulnerable. Nevertheless, if the law was amended, my fellow journalists and I would have acknowledged the authority of the legislature. We would have obeyed the law.

No matter how well-intentioned the clerks may have been, none of us – and certainly not a government official – gets to pick and choose which laws we obey. As with the clerks, there are portions of the state’s freedom-of-information laws to which I strongly object. It’s outrageous, for example, that taxpayers who provide billions of dollars in salaries for the state’s public school teachers – including my wife – are barred by law from seeing routine performance evaluations.

That secrecy is bad public policy. The law ought to be changed.

Is that reason enough for me to hack into a school computer and take what I want, since, after all, I know I’m in the right?

One of the sad ironies here is that the death certificates contain little that the clerks, or anyone else, had reason to fear releasing. But once the media came calling, a line in the sand was drawn and the vilification began.

State Rep. Dan Carter, whose district includes part of Newtown, said releasing the death certificates “will only fuel the painful media circus in Newtown” – as though the pain in Newtown emanated from the barrel of a pen.

With police helicopters in the air and scores of heavily armed officers clutching assault rifles, the grounds of the Sandy Hook firehouse on Dec. 14 must surely have been a disturbing scene to the panicked children and parents. I have yet to hear it described as a “police circus.”

But the media, of course, make an exceptionally convenient target, as they have for thousands of years. While society has evolved, the concept of killing the messenger remains strangely appealing.

State Rep. Mitch Bolinsky piled on, calling reporters seeking the death records “jackals.” And months later he asserted that Aurelia’s refusal to release the death certificates did not violate state law because his bill that would change the rules was up for debate in the legislature.

“I would argue that she is well within her rights and I support what she’s doing,” he said.

Bolinsky may indeed have supported what Aurelia was doing, but as a lawmaker with his own oath of office, he cannot seriously have been under the impression that government officials are authorized to break a current law so long as it’s possible they won’t be breaking a future law.

Nevertheless, the legislative session adjourned last week, and our elected leaders ultimately rebuffed the efforts of Aurelia and others, passing a law that put restrictions on access to some information about Newtown, but not the death certificates.

So the democratic process had run its course. But the clerks still weren’t quite ready to obey the law.

When reporters returned to obtain the records withheld six months earlier, the clerk’s office applied a level of heightened and inappropriate scrutiny that would have made the IRS blush.

Forms were rejected if the request was made in the name of a media outlet rather than an individual, and requesters were required to list their names and home addresses. Clerks demanded to know what the journalists intended to do with the information.

None of that is legal.

“There is no statutory provision requiring a requester to give his or her name or address (unless, of course, the requester asks that the documents be mailed) as a condition precedent to inspecting or receiving a copy of a death or marriage certificate,” the state’s Freedom of Information Commission wrote more than two decades ago. “Nor is there a similar requirement that a requester state his or her relationship to the subject of the record or to state the reason for the request.”

Those words were written after a long-ago controversy in which some local clerks were intimating that death records were available only to immediate family members. The commission made it clear that that wasn’t the case, and that clerks had no latitude over whether or not to obey the law as written.

“It is the Commission’s opinion that it would constitute a violation of the FOI Act … for any registrar of vital statistics either to dishonor a request to inspect or copy death or marriage certificates or to discourage a requester from asserting his her right to such records. Indeed, the failure to comply with the law in this respect would be a violation of a public official’s sacred trust to faithfully discharge, according to law, the duties of his or her office.”

In Newtown last week, employees in the clerk’s office discharged the duties of their office by badgering journalists lawfully doing their jobs. Indeed, employees so mistreated a young reporter from the Courant that it took a call to the town’s lawyer to secure an apology and an assurance that the antics would stop.

The clerks in Newtown, and their many supporters, are undoubtedly proud of their streak of civil disobedience. They shouldn’t be. Newtown knows as well as any town in America the devastating toll exacted when the rule of law falls apart. How dishonorable of the clerks to react to an insane burst of lawlessness by embracing months of lawlessness all their own.

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81 thoughts on “In the Newtown Clerk’s Office, a Dishonorable End to Six Months of Lawlessness

  1. Lynn S

    There is a level of arrogance and entitlement in the town clerk’s office that starts with the town clerk. There are some who support this attitude, but there are many more in Newtown who do not. “Humble” is not a word in their vocabulary.

  2. Billy Curtis

    I am convinced there is a cover up that is why they will not release any evidence. There is no doubt that there were multiple attackers.

    The nurse’s 911 call and others will confirm this. The nurse also knew the shooter and specifically identified him as a kindergarten teacher’s son. but she changed her story.

    Tony Aiello of CBS reported that the principal recognized the shooter as the son of a colleague.

  3. Theresa

    At work we use a website that gives us access to the Land Records in various towns. I’m not exactly sure when this occurred, but this is a message we get when we log in


    and can’t help but wonder if they’ve restricted access due to the shootings.

  4. Quinte West

    If we have learned anything about the elected “representatives” in the General Assembly this year it is this:
    They do not represent the interests or positions of the voters.
    They put themselves above the law and beyond reproach.
    They demonstrate unbridled arrogance and incredible ignorance time and time again.
    Remember next November.

  5. sue

    Hell if barry obama can ignore law after law after law with illegal appointments, an illegally passed health care bill and corrupt US attorney who lies to judges a corrupt IRS, a corrupt NSA why should these low life public employees be any different

  6. Newtown resident

    Please do not use our rememberance ribbon on an article that causes more pain to the families. Everything we do is done to provide support for the families and this article does the opposite.

  7. Steve

    Cause of death: gunshot wounds. Didn’t need death certifictes for that. Journalists seems to take a holier than thou approach, like they work for the public, when they know deep down they just work for a corporation that desires nothing but readers.

    1. Laura

      I agree. There is a level of arrogance in this article that makes my stomach turn. This is not journalism, it’s bullying. Let it go already – you got the copies of the documents you wanted – why do you feel the need to rub that in their faces and rub salt in the incredibly painful wounds of the families involved? And if you aren’t going to write an article based on the information contained in these documents, why do you need to publicize that you have them? Sounds vindictive to say the least and borders on cruel.

      1. Viktoria Sundqvist

        Like it says in the article, nobody has the right to pick and choose what law to follow, especially not public officials.

        Most people seem to forget that a journalist’s most important job is to hold government officials accountable for their actions. That’s exactly what this article does, and it’s one of the most important pieces written this year.

    2. CT2A

      Steve says “Cause of death: gunshot wounds.”

      – Some people are interested in finding out more. Especially since CT Legislators specifically picked one kind of firearm to ban. The citizens of CT deserve to know the details since it affects their 2nd Amendment rights.

  8. Zephyr

    Unfortunately, pain does not stop in Newtown. Many parents such as myself feel great anxiety since Newtown; there has been no report, not even an interim report, that provides a genuine, thorough analysis of the shootings and how to prevent them happenning again in other schools. For six months Gov. Malloy has worked to draft legislation sealing information instead of doing what should be done–getting as much information and analysis possible out to millions of parents, teachers and students in hopes of a safer 2013-2014 school year. This is like suffering a tragic airline disaster and telling people to just get back on the plane with their kids in August with zero information as to why that’s a good idea. Governor Malloy and his staff are behaving strangely, and in the opinion of this parent, negligently.

  9. Alex Miller

    While I agree that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are very important, I take exception with the way you portray this situation. I find your view to be an extremely myopic version, and as always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

    The press, regardless if the medium is print, electronic, or broadcast envisions themselves as Knights in shining armor, charging into every news situation on their steeds (which now-a-days have been replaced by box trucks and satellite uplinks) to shine their beam of truth to the world.

    In reality, the press has devolved into little more than ambulance chasers, trying to keep a story alive long enough for ratings and profit. The days of a press core that quietly investigated and substantiated claims has long gone by, and what we have replaced the pursuit of truth with, is the pursuit of breaking news at all costs, to pad the bottom line, and irrespective of the pain it may cause to the parties involved.

    To denigrate the Newtown clerks for standing up to your bullish ways just makes you sound like a dejected child who has finally got his way and is now gloating.

    Your comparisons to the statistics from death certificates allowing news and other watch dog organizations uncover medical malpractice bears no merit in this argument, as there was little question to the method with which these children spent their last minutes, and anyone with half a heart, and a quarter of a brain would realize the pain you may cause by your continued pursuit of this information, and relentless, ad naseum coverage of what happened on that day would realize the risk, vs. the reward in this case doesn’t pan out.

    But of course, we cannot expect common sense from our reporters, nor can we expect them to have any kind of heart, or anything that could pass as human emotion. That would be considered a weakness in your line of work.

    What these people tried to do was make it easier for the people who lost their children to get through the day without a barrage of conspiracy theorists, and dirty news reporters constantly badgering them. These families have lost enough, and on top of it all, they have lost the right to privately grieve because of news organizations 24/7 coverage of every waking moment of their life. Trying to justify your behavior to your readers is just plain disingenuous.

    Some laws, in the end are ridiculous, I think you would agree that segregation laws are egregious, but would you chide Rosa Parks for refusing to sit in the back of the bus because it was the law of that land so many years ago?

    So go on, sit there behind your desktop, with your smug attitude bolstered by a court order, but do us a favor and keep it to yourself. The Courant only has a limited time left before it fails like every other print news source has. In the meantime, maybe you should be evaluating all of your negative effects on society before you trumpet the few times you actually make a difference.

    1. Zephyr

      We must be clear: this is not about the photos. Connecticut police do not release crime scene photos. Governor Malloy spent six, precious months drafting legislation, ostensibly to seal records which would not have been publicly available in the first place.

      Those six months should have been spent protecting the millions of children who will walk through public school doors in less than three months’ time.

      Connecticut public officials, from the Governor down to town clerks, have not only failed to provide timely analysis, reports and other information to address the ramifications of this tragedy, they have actually worked to impede analysis of this tragedy.

      I am not smug, I am petrified. The value of Governor Malloy’s analysis of the worst school shooting in US history amounts to, “It happened.” That is shameful. That is negligent.

      If an airline company or private school system handled a tragedy of this magnitude with such disregard for the law, and for the citizens whose safety relies on adherence to that law, it would go under.

      1. Alex Miller

        I think it’s perfectly rational to be petrified of this crime, but I don’t see what any politician could do to avoid this type of crisis. I have no love for our governor, but I don’t see how anything he could say, or anything anyone could provide would actually change the outcome unfortunately.
        You’re right to be frightened, and I am frightened too, but there are some things in life that are beyond our control. I just feel reliving the same day over and over again has more of a negative effect.

        What kind of analysis would provide any type of substance that could prevent this from happening? Further more, how much freedom are you willing to give up for the illusion of safety? Those are the questions I am haunted with daily.
        We understand so little behind what makes people behave the way they do, even when they are the most normal citizens, what then can we learn about a young adult, who by all accounts had several deficiencies? How many people are we going to ostracize in the process of that learning?

        I don’t want my children to grow up in a police state, with armed guards, and metal detectors, armed teachers, and all of the potential danger that involves. I guess what this all means for me personally is that I accept there are dangers in life, and while I want to protect everyone I care about from any danger, I can’t, I can’t be everywhere at every time. All I can do is hug my daughter a little tighter, and cherish all the time I’ve been given with her so far, and hope for as much more time as my heart can stand.

    2. Zephyr

      I want to add that I do have great sympathy for other mothers, and understand they may not want to hear this crime discussed. Had the death certificates been processed as any other death certificates in Connecticut, the scant information they contain would have come out in the same time frame that Chief Medical Examiner Wayne Carver and the State Police were giving press conferences–briefings which described in very graphic detail the events of that day. In contrast to Carver’s description of the number of bullet wounds, caliber of weapon, number of deaths and so forth, the scant information in the death certificates would have received little, if any, attention.

    3. lynn s

      Ridiculous laws or not, everyone has to follow the law. While it was nice our town clerks chose to try and protect the victims, handling it in a professional way, trying to change the law without the level of arrogance would have been more professional.
      As a resident, I was approached by a media journalist who respected my wish NOT to be interviewed. Many of them were respectful! This writers frustration with the Town Clerks seems justified… your frustration with the media you feel is equally justified. While I agree we who live in Newtown were bombarded by an army of media, without them, millions and millions of dollars might not have made it into our town for relief of the victims. Even more important, laws may not have been changed and mental health issues may not have been focused on. In addition, law protecting the release of photos of victims of horrible crimes would have never been passed.

    4. CT2A

      Alex Miller says “These families have lost enough, and on top of it all, they have lost the right to privately grieve because of news organizations 24/7 coverage of every waking moment of their life.”

      – The Newtown parents want to be left alone to grieve, except for the times when they are in Washington to push for more gun control laws (None of which would have directly stopped Lanza). They want to be left alone, except when they want laws protecting their privacy. They want to be left alone, except when their prior felony records are publicized. If they truly want to be left alone, they’re not doing a good job of it.

  10. Barbara

    The reason that the death certificates have been kept private is the same reason that they fought to keep pictures of the crime scene private…..Who, in their right mind would want to see pictures or read the details of the deaths of children! This reporter wants to argue about the right to information but this is coming from someone whose sole purpose and job is to glorify in glaring detail tragedies such as this. I guess when you become a reporter you check your morals and human decency at the door.

    1. Quinte West

      But Barbara–to your point–it is about Freedom of Information–nothing would require anyone to look at pictures or details. That is your privelege and right to decide what you listen to, look at or read. There is no requirement for you or any of us to look at any of this information.
      As uncomfortable as it is in this situation, the ability of the citizens, including the media, to have access to public information affords us the ability to discern what we want to know. It does not leave it up to political decision makers to tell us what they think we should or should not know.

      1. Linda

        I understand your point, Quinte but this is the kind of thing that hits the internet and then takes on a life of its own. Children see it, too. I just don’t see where there is any benefit to releasing the info.

        1. Jason

          If the clerk’s office had released the documents as requested, and required by law, back in December, nobody would have noticed. Any information contained in them would simply have been part of the narrative of the hunderds of stories being written at the time.

          Death certificates do not contain any salacious information and are simply a means for recording and verifying basic statistics. All Birth certificates, death certificates, deeds, mortgages, lawsuits between private or public parties, etc….are all available to anyone who feels the need or desire to review them. Frankly, the day is probably coming where all of these documents will be readily available on the net as a matter of course. Deeds and mortgages already are in most places.

    2. WRS

      Oh my gosh people……can we please stop talking about the reasons they tried to keep the death certificates away from the press!! It doesn’t matter. We have to follow the laws…no personal agendas allowed. If you don’t like the law then lobby to change it. Until then… are obligated to act in accordance with the CURRENT laws on the books no matter who you are or what your personal opinions or intentions are. It’s that SIMPLE!!

  11. Lee

    Thank you, Matt Kauffman, for such an articulate argument on behalf of freedom of information. It’s unfortunate that some citizens will never understand the role of responsible journalists, and will vilify the easy target of “the media.”

  12. Derek

    The dead have been identified. What is the pressing public need for the death certificates? Allow these families the relief and healing that time provides without taking every opportunity to reopen these wounds.

    In a few months the State Police report will be released and the sad truth is the details provided by the investigation will bring us no closer to being able to prevent a similiar incident from occurring. The rights grated by the second ammendment have consequences. Americans will have to decide how much “freedom” we can take.

  13. Jason

    I’m not exactly clear on how the release of public documents – which are not terribly detailed to begin with – would actually cause further grief or hard to the families of victims.

    Frankly, if the clerk’s office had simply followed the law and released the requested public records when they were requested in December, nobody would have known any different and this never would have become a public issue to begin with. It would seem that the clerk office’s unilateral decision to ignore the law and make a legislative issue out of a common, everyday function of their public role would have caused far more distress for grieving loved ones than a reporter reviewing mundane documents.

    1. Zephyr

      I could not agree more.

      Incidentally, Lt. Vance said several weeks ago, in public, that not one person to date had requested the crime scene photos. The specter of media or bloggers clamoring to access records–all requests of which would have been denied under existing policy–are simply untrue.

      1. Alex Miller

        I will contend you are right on that point. Had they been released months ago with no circumstance, this would all be immaterial. I took exception to the tone of the article more than the actual release of information, and the need of the author to jab one last time at the Town Clerks. Was their decision clouded? Sure, but their hearts were in the right place, and they didn’t deserve this type of journalistic joust.

  14. Quinte West

    Nobody disagrees that this was a tragedy, and we don’t need to dwell on ghoulish fascinations with these deaths. At the end of the day, perhaps even with the best of intentions to shield the families of the victims, it is undeniable that State law was openly and blatantly broken. Legislators and Town officials who swear an oath to uphold the laws of the State and Federal Constitutions did neither, and justified their actions by these circumstances. Laws that were drafted in response to Sandy Hook regarding gun ownership, mental health screening, and even workmens compensation, were quickly passed, in some instances without public debate.
    When we leave the interpretation of our rights to the whim of any elected official, and accept their judgement as final, we are lost.

  15. Jeff

    From what I heard from a Ct. State Trooper, the so called assault weapon was NOT used in the shootings but was left in his car and everything happened with the handguns. Unfortunately, that does not fit the gun grabbers narrative so I suspect may be part of the reason for the obstruction. Maybe you should look at what type of weapon was really used in this horrible tragedy and pull the covers of those that want to unfairly attack and punish legal gun owners.

  16. Linda

    Sorry, but if keeping the death certificates from the hands of the press is a crime, take me to jail too. I can see no reason why the press would need to have that information. Let the dead rest in peace.

  17. Paul Marks

    Town clerks can be noble supporters of the law and the public’s right to know or they can be arrogant defenders of the local power structure. When I was covering news in Willington, CT, for The Courant in the 1990s, a pompous and officious woman who was town clerk at the time barked at me when I asked to see IRS filings showing that action had been taken against a local restaurant for nonpayment of taxes. “If that’s what you’re interested in, you won’t get any cooperation from me,” she said. “These are public records, but they’re PRIVATE records, too.” Just so. I later found out that one of her relatives was part owner of the troub
    led restaurant.

  18. Gregg 3 Gs

    While I sympathize with their loss it is not the duty of society to customize every aspect of life for the families of the victims such that they now feel zero conflict or stress for the rest of their lives.

    The surviving kids still have to go to school and study and earn good grades. They shouldn’t get a passing grade simply because they were close to someone who was killed. If the kid doesn’t pass his test he should fail.

    So when a request is made for the death certificate of a loved one and they don’t like it, well, tough. The law says it is allowed to be disclosed. There are lots of laws that cause me annoyance that I wish would be changed but I have to live with them they way they are, not they way I would like them to be.

    For the Newtown clerk and her staff to simply nullify the right to disclosure is crooked. Unfortunately, crooked has been tolerated here in Connecticut. Mayor Perez, John Rowland, Joseph Ganim — these people all thought the law didn’t apply to them. Recently, there was a bill debated and passed in secret. Corruption in Connecticut needs to stop. Yes, when you blatantly disregard the law as a public official to improperly appease the wishes of a small group, that is corruption, even if the group you are trying to appease is the families of murder victims. The law is the law.

  19. Zephyr

    I just find it so hypocritical that the very State government which immediately held a press conference describing in graphic detail the deaths of these children now says members of the public who continue to be concerned about this crime are “ghoulish.”

    It could not be clearer to me at this point that accusing worried parents of being “ghoulish” is a tactic to stifle inquiry and shame people into silence, instead of acknowledging the very real doubt we feel as to whether proper procedures were followed in Sandy Hook both before, during, and after this tragedy.

    The only thing worse than a tragedy of this magnitude is failing to understand it in order to prevent the next one. We need to know exactly what contributed to the horrific death rate in Sandy Hook–building materials, lockdown protocols, door locks, staff key assignments, mental health assessment, gun laws, and yes, even law enforcement and emergency services response. We must know anything and everything that might have failed, and could therefore be improved, because if we don’t identify it, it will fail again.

  20. Margaret Hartman

    Ghoulish voyarism under the cloak of “journalism”. Disgusting. Iagree that the self serving arrogance of this piece is nauseating.

  21. psoddsocks

    I would argue that this article does, indeed, support the families of Newtown victims. It supports their right to have public officials who obey the law, and their right to have access to information that the law has determined to be in the public interest.

    I shudder to think what kind of harm they and their fellow citizens might suffer if individual government officials were allowed to dispense information only to those they deemed worthy.

  22. Gilbert

    We are not talking about anything more than what the clerks were sworn to do but did not do–you nor anyone doesn’t have the right to deny me what is mine under the law. Nor do i have the right to deny you the same. IT’S WRONG. And i don’t mean in a moral sense but in a technical sense—because that’s what this is about. Was the shooter wrong in killing his mother & those children —of course under the law he was wrong—yet he did it anyway—so what does that say–if you feel so strongly about anything then you can forget that the law exists and do what you want. This is the very reason we’re talking about this—because 1 person said forget the law i’m going to act on how i feel regardless


    I hear arrogance in the tone of the article but I think it probably comes out of frustration. The point is, whether arrogant or not the author is still right. I have come across arrogant town clerks too and it’s exasperating to say the least. The death certificates are public for a reason. That reason is to protect you and me and everyone-else from corruption outside and within the system. I will be arrogant now by adding that “if you don’t get that one small point you are part of the problem not the solution.”

  24. Mike

    You media people are the worse scumbags on the planet. Worse than any criminal. You hide behind “journalism” in your attempt to exploit anyone at any cost to make a buck. Please tell us, what “breaking news” are you going to learn from these death certificates? None. You’re just disgracefully grabbing for headlines. You are absolutely disgusting and I hope that karma that comes to you is very public.

    1. Kurt

      Mike, you’re letting your emotions cloud your judgement! We are afforded basic rights in regards to freedom of information. You can’t pick and choose what is and it’s released to the public. You are currently enjoying posting anonymously online, as a basic right. What’s your full name and address? ….oh right.

    2. CT2A

      Mike says “You media people are the worse scumbags on the planet. Worse than any criminal. You hide behind “journalism” in your attempt to exploit anyone at any cost to make a buck. Please tell us, what “breaking news” are you going to learn from these death certificates? None.”

      – If there was nothing new to learn, then the State Police report would be out by now. They originally said the report would be out early summer. Now it’s early fall. If everything was cut and dry, the report would be done.

  25. JohnB

    The arrogance is not with the town clerk’s office but with your sensationalistic headline. That headline is an abuse of your journalistic responsibilities and ethics and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  26. BigRed

    JohnBoy, you really don’t get it, do you? The point of the headline is that for six months these arrogant public officials in the Newtown clerk’s office defied the law and their oath of office, denying all of us the right to access public records, then when forced to comply they retreated to petty bureaucratic obstructions. “Dishonorable” is a mild description.

  27. Zephyr

    The headline is quite accurate. The clerks’ behavior was, by definition, lawless, and the end of the lawlessness is dishonorable because, despite having been told by their superiors that their obstruction to date was wrongful, they continue to obstruct justice and denigrate citizens. The clerks are helping nobody, bringing morale down, and just simply doing a bad job–a job funded by the very public they are refusing to serve.

  28. Gary Boshinsky

    Great story, except that you fail to disclose to your readers that the Newtown clerk’s office is not the only place that has copies of the death certificates; copies have been available at the state Department of Public Health since the beginning.

    As a result, if you didn’t get a copy of the death certificates until now, then it’s due to poor reporting, not because the Newtown town clerk refused to give them to you. I suspect that, at some point, this became more about creating a controversy than actually obtaining the records.

    1. Jason

      But why should the keeper of vital public records in a town be free of controvery when he or she unilaterally refuses to release such records as required by their oath of office?

      The refusal of a public official to perform the basic duty of their job is – on its face – controversial, or at least it should be. Why should the newspaper be criticized for calling such official on the carpet?

    2. Zephyr

      Surely, in fact, the mother who was trying to obtain records on her own son’s death would not have been mentioned in the legislators’ emails if records had been abailable from another source, Her request was being denied while legislation was pending–that’s a Sandy Hook mom, whose child died.

  29. Arty

    Guess who Debbie Aurelia’s fiancée is? Halstead, chief of sandy hook fire dept. and first non responder. Who pronounced the kids dead and would not allow emts into the building when the kids were shot only minutes before? Would you not be angry that your child was not taken to hospital and pronounced dead by a medical professional? Might you even file a lawsuit? Aurelia’s proposed bill would have sealed death and MARRIAGE certs statewide. This was not about protecting victims, it was about lawsuits and the truth that would come out as a result. WAKE UP. Guess who is in charge of who can sue the state? Vance’s son!


    Adams death certificate states he died on the 13th of Dec. That’s still not been explained by the medical examiners office. Then there’s the missing 911 calls. Didn’t Sally Cox AKA Sarah Cox make the first 911 call? What possible harm could come from releasing that now? In fact, the more we know about the shooting the better prepared school staff will be to handle any other similar situation should it arise. Lets pray that doesn’t happen.

  31. Zephyr

    Very doubtful Sandy Hook had video/DVR. Front entry monitor camera, possibly, but elementary schools don’t usually spring for schoolwide camera arrays that record to tape/DVR. When Novia pushed for such a system on the high school, even, it was a big battle. Middle schools are less likely to have them, and K-5s least of all. However, there may be police dashcam footage in evidence.


    On the police scanner it says there is NO surveillance video. To quote the Officer in the recording he says ”there is no video” and he repeats it twice. Check the police scanner #5 download and listen to the 4 minute mark. There are two links for you to try. and

    The file name is “Sandy Hook Police Scanner 5.mp3?

    This raises the question “how safe are schools”. It also begs the question “why wasn’t there any surveillance video?” This is why there’s a serious need for an inquiry into Sandy Hook and school safety. Every corner store, confectionery and 7/11 has video surveillance but Sandy Hook didn’t? If a video surveillance system wasn’t installed at the school then there’s a possible liability issue here. Without surveillance video the only evidence left is hear-say. One source says there’s no video and the other says there is a video. Why would Malloy and Sedensky say there is a video? Are they confused? Don’t they know? Who‘s telling the truth? This is a major discrepancy in the story. Are they going to tell us the scanner frequencies got crossed up again like the Rodia License plate numbers? What will be the excuse this time?

    What about the missing 911 calls? Some say Sally Cox made the first 911 call. Do they exist? Attorney Sedensky said he never heard the 911 calls. It’s all starting to look like a white-wash. So who has heard the 911 recording? Has anyone heard them???

    The story has flip-flopped so many times how are we to believe anything they tell us. If that recording exists it’s evidence that is crucial to the investigation and a school safety hearing.

    Someones not telling the truth, If I was a parent of kids that were going to a Connecticut school or any school I would be pushing for transparency.

  33. LFoster

    My only niggle with Matt’s article is from the point of view of a ex-reporter. He says:
    “Nevertheless, if the law was amended, my fellow journalists and I would have acknowledged the authority of the legislature. We would have obeyed the law.”
    You know perfectly well that we would have moved heaven and earth to find an alternative source (legal or not)for whatever info we sought. Tell journalists they can’t have something and you’re just spurring them to greater lengths to find it. THAT is a reporter’s duty and delight.


      We can’t paint all reporters with the same brush stroke. I remember hearing how difficult it is for some reporters to cover some topics that involve tragedy. I cannot speak for Matt but this is a subject that must be painful to talk about for those that get too close.

  34. Arty

    They had just had a massive security system installed, of course there was a camera on the front door. This whole thing is an embarrassment to ct. Now they are building a 50 million dollar school in a community everyone is moving out of and no one will be moving to. What a joke! Half the country knows something is wrong with this story. Do some real investigative reporting for Christ sakes. I ask again, who pronounced the kids dead after just minutes? Can anyone answer that? These emts have PTSD from what? Standing around for hours? Some of the emts had direct family in the building yet they still stood around outside. Ask some real questions already. You can ridicule bloggers all day but they are the only ones doing any real investigation. Pathetic.


    Janet Robinson the former superintendent of the Newtown school district predicts another Sandy Hook type incident will happen again.

    “If it can happen in Newtown, it’ll happen here,” said Janet Robinson at a presentation for Michigan school administrators and officers. So maybe we should look at ALL the facts available before it happens again so we can prevent it or at least minimize the damage.

  36. Mike Enucsid

    Did he just compare the role of the police in this to the role of the media? Resentful that it was called a “media circus”, but not a “police circus”? Wow, how self-centered and self-important can he be?


      I think he is saying the word circus is not appropriate in either case. That’s how I take it anyway.


    Safety measures are taken to strengthen school security but is it enough? The Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation is adding doors that will have windows, but someone on the other side will not be able to reach through to unlock them.

    “We’re also going to be adding some security measures that lead to the corridor, so we’ll have additional doors that can be locked at the corridor,” said PHM Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker. Additional intercom systems and panic buttons will be installed. Staff on the inside will be able to lockdown certain parts of the school from a central location in the event of an emergency. They will also add more cameras and 3M film on the windows to make it more difficult to break through. Is it enough? What do you think? What about the new school at Sandy Hook? Will they incorporate these new security measures in the new school?,0,2650971.story?track=rss

  38. Zephyr

    A Pennsylvania police chief scheduled a visit to Newtown recently to discuss school security in hopes of improving safety in his own district; he went to Sandy Hook school as part of his visit, to examine the structure, layout, materials, etc., but was told he could not see the school. I find this just ridiculous. Maybe “rabid bloggers” – er, the American public – doesn’t have a right to examine the facts in hopes of improving safety (why, I don’t know), but certainly a fellow police chief could have been granted some leeway for a necessary cause. Surely the investigation of the building and evidence it contains is now complete; the floors, much of the ceilings, as well as the children’s desks have all been removed (why?) anyway. What possible reason could there be to not allow this professional law enforcement chief to examine at least the layout, window type, etc.?


      There must be some secret Newtown is hiding. It’s not just the shooting they’re afraid to talk about. There’s something else. The whole town seems like they are hiding something. Maybe it’s a secret military base or maybe Newtown is a secret society. God only knows. It’s all so strange. Anyone who asks any questions is given the cold shoulder and told to visit some website for more information. I know it sounds crazy but I’ve heard about others getting this same type of response. Weird!

    2. Arty

      Hochsprungs daughter visited the school, they had torn it the walls and floors of the classrooms and built a corridor within the hallway. See “a daughters pilgrimage” in the news times.


    School Safety Infrastructure Council is charged with developing a new security plan for schools. That new plan is this. More security cameras, reinforcement of entryways, buzzer systems, remote locks, solid core doors and ballistic glass. The Board of Regents for Higher Education, with help from the Department of Emergency Service and Public Protection, is also required to evaluate whether a special police force should be required for each state community college.

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