The federal Freedom of Information Act [“FOIA”] has recently made its way into national new stories for all the wrong reasons. Hillary Clinton has become enmeshed in a controversy involving her use of a “private” e-mail account for conducting official business. In addition, in a development that can charitably be described as ironic, the White House chose “National Freedom of Information Day” and “Sunshine Week” as the moment in time to eliminate a federal regulation that subjected its “Office of Administration” to the FOIA, thus apparently codifying a practice of the Bush and Obama administrations of denying access to records from that office. White House office to delete its FOIA regulations.
For better or worse, most public agencies in Connecticut do not have power to simply eliminate their obligations under Connecticut’s FOIA. Regardless of politics, failure to comply with the FOIA may subject public officials to penalties. Indeed, non-compliance with the FOIA has been a bi-partisan problem over the years. Briefly, as we use the possible missteps of others for purposes of providing a teachable moment, here are a few reminders:
As part of this teachable moment, here is a “test” that I have given over the years at seminars and workshops on the FOIA. In light of recent developments, the lessons provided are worth remembering, lest you inadvertently become part of a news story for all the wrong reasons.