State Officials Blow Past Deadline To Make Appointments To FOI Task Force
The state missed its first deadline in forming a task force to weigh exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act carved out by the legislature in response to the Newtown shootings.
The law, which was emergency certified and passed on the final day of this year’s legislative session, prevents the release of any photograph or video recording that portrays the body of a homicide victim. It also prohibits for one year, the release of law enforcement audio recordings describing the bodies of children who are murdered.
Families of some of the victims of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre lobbied heavily for the bill late in the session.
In addition, the legislation called for the establishment of a 17-member task force with appointments from a handful of stakeholders to make recommendations on the “balance between victim privacy under the Freedom of Information Act and the public’s right to know.” Appointments were to be made by July 1.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokesman said Monday the administration is still in the process of reviewing candidates and expects to make appointments soon. The law asks Malloy to appoint a representative of a crime victim advocacy group and a municipal police official.
The legislation also asked the leaders of the four legislative caucuses to either serve on the task force themselves or appoint someone to work on the group in their place. A spokesman for House Speaker Brendan Sharkey said Monday that Sharkey has selected Rep. Angel Arce, D-Hartford, to work on the task force. The law required that Sharkey choose a member of the House Black and Puerto Rican Caucus if he opted not to serve on the group himself.
Arce brings a unique perspective to the group. In 2008, his father was paralyzed in a hit-and-run accident on Park Street in Hartford. The incident was captured in video footage and made national news after the video was released.
A spokesman for House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said Cafero would serve on the task force unless or until he chooses someone else to take his place. Meanwhile, spokesmen for Senate President Donald Williams and Minority Leader John McKinney said both were still in the process of making their appointment.
The Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists, which the law asks to make four appointments, made its selections in June. The group picked Don DeCesare, general manager of WLIS-AM in Old Saybrook, and Klarn DePalma, general manager of WFSB-TV 3 in Hartford. The Connecticut SPJ also tapped the president of its board, Jodie Mozdzer Gil, and Connecticut Post Metro Editor Brian Koonz to work on the group.
The law specifically names some of the group’s members, including the executive director of the Freedom of Information Commission, the Chief State’s Attorney, the Chief Public Defender, the state Victim Advocate, and the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Another member must be a constitutional law professor recommended by law school deans from the University of Connecticut, Yale, and Quinnipiac University. The legislation also requires the Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information to appoint a member.
Sharkey and Williams will pick two of the appointed members to lead the task force. The group is to begin working no later than Aug. 1 and will meet at least once a month until December. Its recommendations to the General Assembly are due by Jan. 1.