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FOIA panel calls for release of city documents

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  1. Freedom of Information
Nov. 30, 2007  ·   The city of Hartford violated state law when it refused to give the Hartford Courant…

Nov. 30, 2007  ·   The city of Hartford violated state law when it refused to give the Hartford Courant documents related to possible corruption at city hall, Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission ruled unanimously on Wednesday.

The commission found that all of the requested documents were public records, and ordered the city to turn them over “free of charge.”

The Courant‘s battle for the documents began earlier this year when reports surfaced about possible corruption in Mayor Eddie Perez’s administration. Perez reportedly awarded political backer Abraham Giles a no-bid, lucrative contract to operate a city-owned parking lot. Perez is under fire for two other allegations, including providing $10,000 in city funds to clean out Giles’ private warehouse. In August, Perez also acknowledged hiring a city contractor to do $20,000 worth of renovations to his house.

In March, Courant reporter Daniel Goren asked the city for copies of all information requests or subpoenas to the city from any law enforcement agency. Later that month, Goren asked for all documents turned over to the state’s attorney. Deputy city attorney Carl Nasto and the city refused, so the newspaper filed two complaints in response.

Nasto argued that the documents had been submitted to the state’s attorney’s office, which he said made them exempt from disclosure requirements. The commission ruled that the city was not considered a law enforcement agency and was therefore not entitled to the exemption. The commission found Nasto’s refusal was “without reasonable grounds” and fined him $400.

“It was unreasonable for Nasto to rely on the law-enforcement exemption when City Hall was clearly not a law enforcement agency,” said Paul Guggina, the Courant’s attorney. “All of [Nasto’s] actions demonstrated that [he] was acting in bad faith.”

According to Guggina, the city indicated that it intends to appeal the decision, and that it also intends to withhold the documents until a court orders their disclosure. Goren and the Courant will continue to seek immediate disclosure of the documents.

Adam Vingan

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