So much for the dishonest one upholding the rule of law!
New Haven Register is having a field day exposing the REAL Mayor Mark Boughton and the columnist and former commissioner for Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission Andy Thibault's latest piece on the dishonest one's on-going effort to keep his activities at City Hall under wraps is a must read.
Reported in full with permission
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton’s legal team – famous across the land for baseless threats against a local blogger – continues to write new chapters in the delay, deny, defend game over access to public records.
Curiously, these efforts now focus on stonewalling requests for financial records as gubernatorial candidate Boughton proclaims the mantra, “People Over Politics.” Already criticized for hypocrisy over his alliance with indicted former congressional candidate Lisa Wilson Foley, a flip-flop on gun control and deletion of critical Facebook comments on the gun issue, Boughton’s war on freedom of information poses a grave threat not only to the citizenry at large, but also to his own political fortune.
What was up with the Boughton-Wilson Foley deal? After the New Haven Register and Register Citizen broke the story that former Gov. John Rowland had a shadow role in Wilson Foley’s campaign while ostensibly working for her husband’s nursing home chain, Boughton helped deliver Danbury delegates to his former rival. Maybe he’s like Mother Theresa and just did it out of the kindness of his heart. Or, maybe there’s more to it.
As CT News Junkie reported, Boughton’s decision to end his relationship with Mayors Against Illegal Guns came just a few days after he was criticized by Second Amendment supporters at a Capitol rally. “I am not sure that the timing of his departure will help his campaign at this point,” a leader of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League told the news site. The daughter of slain Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung criticized Boughton for “putting his political ambitions ahead of the safety of Connecticut families.”
A normal and reasonable person might think Team Boughton would have wised up after being exposed in federal court for amateurish attempts to silence Hat City blogger Al Robinson. Robinson last fall reported unflattering details of a sexual harassment case involving the mayor and the city. Thereupon, Robinson was “ordered” by the city to remove two short news items, neither of which contained any confidential information.
Never mind that the city misrepresented its authority. For now, at least, in this state or country: “In the absence of a court order or statute barring disclosure, a blogger’s right to publish lawfully obtained transcripts comes within the protection of the First Amendment,” appellate attorney Proloy Das of Hartford said at the time of the controversy.
As U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Martinez put it, there was “no showing of substantial embarrassment or harm that outweighs the public’s interest in Mayor Boughton’s performance of his governmental responsibilities.” Martinez also rejected an attempt by the city’s subcontracted law firm, Rose Kallor of Hartford, to punish the plaintiff’s lawyer for sharing public records.
The Danbury News Times had sought those records since last September. The city, through Rose Kallor, ultimately sent redacted deposition transcripts electronically to the newspaper the day after Thanksgiving. The case is loaded with serious allegations of vast cronyism and a wide variety of discipline or no discipline at all for acts of violence, threatening and sexual harassment. The Hat City blog posts characterize Boughton as “infatuated” with a former personnel director and warped by power. Depositions also revealed the existence of secret personnel files.
I asked for those same records on March 24 of this year. Obviously, the records were readily available with just a couple clicks. Instead of producing the records promptly as Connecticut’s FOI law demands, three days later I got this response from Danbury Assistant Corporation Counsel Dianne Rosemark: “The City has received your request for information below. We will provide a more detailed response to your request on [April Fool’s Day] Monday (the City is closed on Fridays).”
Who gave the order to stonewall this request for a week or more?
I asked Rosemark that question in correspondence on Monday, April 14.
For the record, I did receive the redacted depositions after protesting the ludicrous delaying tactics. I also noted in follow-up correspondence that such records should be available immediately to any citizen who requests them during normal business hours. Someone ought to test that, for, without the equivalent of a cattle prod, it is challenging to pry public records out of Danbury City Hall.
Given the city’s long-standing troubles with public records production – including issues with illegal redactions (e.g., redacting non-confidential material) – I intend to ask the FOI Commission to review the uncensored depositions in chambers to determine whether the redactions made by the city’s hired guns were legal. This is a routine procedure which in other cases has resulted in full disclosures of public information in other cases.
Still outstanding from my March 24 FOI requests are complete billing records to the city from Rose Kallor; as well as financial records including losses from investments connected with the jailed swindler Bernard Madoff and warnings from actuaries about the city’s failure to make adequate contributions to pensions. In a follow-up request dated April 14, I noted that the Danbury City Charter requires a match with employee contributions, and that allegedly has not happened over a number of years.
Given the way Danbury deals with public records requests under the Boughton regime, what impact might a Governor Boughton have on the state’s beleaguered FOI Commission? Think about it. Boughton for governor? Governor of The Hidden Public Records sounds about right.
Andy Thibault is a contributing editor for 21st Century Media’s Connecticut publications and the author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life. He formerly served as a commissioner for Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission. Reach Thibault by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cooljustice.