HARTFORD, CT — Two of Connecticut’s largest school districts have so far failed to comply with requests for public information as part of a statewide test conducted by news organizations to mark Sunshine Week 2019.
Both the New Haven and Hartford were among at least 41 school districts asked between Feb. 11 and Feb. 14 to provide copies of their Superintendents’ compensation packages as well as enrollment data for each of their schools.
The Hartford school district acknowledged the request within four days, which is required by law, but has yet to provide the documents requested. A March 14 email from the district said they were working on the request.
The statewide survey was conducted by seven news organizations to test compliance with the state’s Freedom of Information Act. Aside from CTNewsJunkie, other news organizations that took part in the survey were the Record-Journal, the Hearst Connecticut Media newspapers, the Journal Inquirer, the Bulletin, WFSB Channel 3, and NBC Connecticut.
“The purpose of Sunshine Week is to highlight the disclosure laws that allow the news media and public at large to monitor government and keep public officials accountable,” said Mike Savino, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information and also an editor at the Record-Journal. “Transparency is crucial to a healthy and vibrant democracy, so it’s disappointing that some of Connecticut’s largest cities aren’t willing to fulfill fairly simple requests in a timely manner.”
As of this week, most of the school districts had complied with the requests.
Enfield’s school district was among those that had yet to comply by Friday, according to the Journal Inquirer.
The survey also included requests to town governments to provide lists of their top-10 highest paid non-school employees and for disciplinary records from each town’s Public Works Department.
A majority of the town governments complied with requests for information about their highest paid employees. But some have been slow to produce the disciplinary records of their Public Works employees. Hartford officials said they are in the process of redacting some of the records before sharing them publicly.
The Record-Journal reported that the town of Berlin didn’t provide letters of discipline for public works employees, citing a state FOI exemption for the invasion of privacy.
Berlin Town Manager Jack Healy told the Record-Journal that the town’s policy is not to release letters of discipline for town employees.
Tom Hennick, the Freedom of Information Commission’s public education officer, said there are exemptions to disclosure laws for medical information and privacy, but he said letters of discipline are public documents.
“There’s no blanket exemption for letters of discipline,” Hennick said.