Thursday, June 28, 2012

The limits to Freedom of Information

A reporter's biggest frustration is their inability to convey to the reader the full story behind important decisions. That is why I requested under the state's Freedom of Information Act all documents and emails pertaining to why Platt Principal Patricia DeCoster resigned her position.

It took awhile to get the information but in the end all that was learned was their were performance issues, according to the principal herself. But in the remaining 25 pages there is no information about what were the performance issues.

Honestly, its frustrating to not be able to let you know more. These are the times where I kind of feel as a failure as a reporter because it's my job to present all of the information, and I can't. I am told by the state that both sides including the principal signed a document promising to not say what were the reasons why DeCoster is not seeking a second year at Platt.

What do you think? Should the documents be publicized? Please share your comments here or email me at bmccready@nhregister.com


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3 Comments:

OpenID Mike said...

Brian
Do you feel that Platt violated the FOI law by not fully complying with your request? Did they actually state they withheld documents or do you suspect they withheld documents? If they said they withheld document, did they give you a reason why? My reading of the FOI law suggests you still have further recourse. Appeal to the FOI commission.

June 29, 2012 at 8:10 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since this is a publicly funded entity I think the public does have a right to know. Agree with above poster who suggests you may have further recourse. And by the way, I also feel publicly posted blogs by reporters should be carefully proof-read. "all that was learned was their were performance issues" - "These are the times where I kind of feel as a failure as a reporter" -- Really?

June 29, 2012 at 8:26 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The state’s technical school system is an autonomous division of the state department of education. It is this separate division which violated FOIA by failing to disclose and provide the alleged“ confidential” agreement to the public. It seems a party to that agreement who is in fact also the head of the organization, who willfully violated state law by failing to disclose the documents existence and failed to release it upon request of the New Haven Register..

Should your paper file an appeal to the FOI commission, the head of Connecticut's technical school system will spend lots of education funds to protect certain individuals raising the spurious argument Connecticut General Statutes chapter 10 make school personnel records exempt from the reach of the FOIA.

Such claim will be a bogus one of course but that will not prevent the waste of enormous amounts of your tax money in what will be a futile defense mounted by parties to this agreement. It is likely the issue will move to Superior court, because education officials are in fact freely allowed to waste education funds in self-protection, such is the sad state of education leadership.

However, Courts are loath to uphold public confidentiality agreements when used to hide public issues, especially concerning public finances, and public education. Any rights asserted by the individuals identified in such agreements are easily remedied by limited redaction of names. But even here, when parties are top state school administrators, case law states they have little to no rights to have their activities or files kept secret.

The public’s overwhelming interest in disclosing these matters far outweighs any potential harm from full disclosures of the activities of the state’s top school officials.

June 29, 2012 at 11:41 AM 

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