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PLN Connecticut FOIA suit cited in editorial about public records access

Hartford Business Journal, Oct. 19, 2009. http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/news10635.html
PLN Connecticut FOIA suit cited in editorial about public records access - Hartford Business Journal 2009

Futile FOI Fights

Hartford Business Journal

10/19/09

The city of Hartford is engaged in a silly Freedom of Information beef over a copying fee of $27.50. It’s a fight that will likely cost the city much more in time and money.

According to the Hartford Advocate newspaper, the flap began in September 2008 when Prison Legal News, a national monthly publication focusing on prisoners’ rights, submitted an FOI request to the city for electronic records from the case of a man who was arrested.

The city told the publication that it would cost $27.50 to get the documents. State law does allow the city to charge 50 cents per page for the 54 pages. But Prison Legal News requested a fee waiver, which is allowed when the information is for the public benefit.

Hartford’s Corporation Counsel, John Rose, denied the request for the fee waiver and Prison Legal News filed a complaint with the FOI Commission, which ruled in the publication’s favor on Sept. 23, ordering the city to turn over the documents free of charge.

But the city refused again to hand over the records, with Attorney Nathalie Feola-Guerrieri from the corporation counsel’s office, telling the publication’s editor that Hartford might appeal.

For the city to even consider an appeal is absurd. The time, energy and money being dedicated to this case would be better used to deal with important issues facing Hartford.

According to the Advocate, the city has spent tens of thousands of dollars in unsuccessful appeals of FOI rulings over the past several years, blowing in excess of $50,000 recently in an attempt to reverse $400 worth of fines against Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Nasto after he refused to release documents related to the criminal grand jury probe of Mayor Eddie Perez.

This pattern of blowing taxpayer money to deny requests for public information has got to stop.