Committee Seeks To Retain Public Access To Commission
HARTFORD, CT — Lawmakers will get their first look at the recommendations from the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth on Thursday afternoon, but some want to know more about how the commission arrived at its conclusions.
The 14-member, volunteer commission is expected to officially disband once they report their recommendations about how to improve Connecticut’s economy, but it has created a nonprofit organization called Connecticut Rising, Inc. to help it continue to carry out its recommendations.
Connecticut Rising, Inc., according to the co-chairs of the commission, has raised $300,000 to help support its effort in creating the recommendations. The group used the money to hire McKinsey & Company, Millstein & Co., and Cain Associates. McDowell Jewett Communications was hired to handle communications.
It’s new territory. No volunteer commission has ever sought to form a nonprofit organization to support its efforts. They have traditionally relied on the staff provided to them by the legislature. These volunteer commissions have also relied on their own expertise to complete the task they were given by the General Assembly.
Anything Connecticut Rising, Inc. does after Thursday won’t be subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Commission laws. However, the General Administrations and Elections Committee will hold a public hearing Monday on a bill that would subject groups like Connecticut Rising, Inc. to FOI laws.
The bill would amend the definition of “public agency” to include any nonprofit organization created to benefit a commission, task force, or working group established in statute by the General Assembly.
Proponents of the legislation, including the AFL-CIO, said it would ensure the nonprofit organization would be subject to all the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.
“All of its activities would have to be transparent and all of its meetings would have to take place in a public place,” according to an informational flier distributed by the union coalition.
Meanwhile, two organizations — Common Cause in Connecticut and the Connecticut Citizens Action Group — requested correspondence, emails, meeting minutes, and contract language the commission might have adopted as part of their agreements to hire the consultants.
“The Commission is conducting business on behalf of the state and has been granted extraordinary power — it is imperative that it operates with maximum transparency,” Tom Swan, executive director for the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, said. “Secret agreements and hidden money are a dark reminder of the corrupt days of the Rowland administration and cannot be tolerated.”
Swan argued that all of the work the group has done is subject to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws.
Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, said the “secrecy of the Commission is a reminder of the corrupting influence of money in our political process and the dangers of letting corporate interests buy policy.”