For some reason, there’s a fascination with garbage over in District B Democratic headquarters. Wait, do they even have a legal headquarters? Today the Hour reports that Bobby Burgess held a press conference to announce that he was angry. The Hour used “blasted” the press release said “Mayor of the city of Norwalk and others are engaged in a flagrant violation and contempt of the Freedom of Information Act due to continued non-compliance with the FOI request dated August 8, 2008.” Funny, the city of Norwalk’s response was pretty straightforward at the time. Something along the lines, of tighten up the scope please, and you are asking for many dead trees of stuff are you sure you want it.
Needless to say the braintrust of flagrant use of hyperbole decided to ignore any request to actually figure out what they wanted copies of, and now are claiming that they just want to look at stuff. Amazing, maybe they should talk to Diane Lauricella who managed, during the whole garbage debate, to head down to DPW and look at stuff. But, that would be too logical. That would mean that Burgess had a legitimate issue and was seeking information. What he really wanted was yet another press conference.
Except that Joe Mann, Executive Director of NEON, didn’t seem to happy about Burgess’ use of the front of NEON as the staging area. With good reason, NEON is not Burgess’ fiefdom. Anymore.
The Hour reports:
District B Democrats took up the fight on Aug. 8 by filing a five-page request under the Freedom of Information Act, asking the city to release “all sent and received information” regarding the municipal trash-hauling debate. To date, the city hasn’t complied with the request, according to Bobby Burgess, District B Democrats chairman.
“The administration of the city of Norwalk, including Richard Moccia, mayor of the city of Norwalk and others are engaged in a flagrant violation and contempt of the Freedom of Information Act due to continued non-compliance with the FOI request dated Aug. 8, 2008,” Burgess said. “Mayor Richard A. Moccia and other city of Norwalk officials have clearly demonstrated disregard for the law, a systematic and calculated attempt to delay, stall and prevent the disclosure of information that will benefit public welfare.”
On Monday morning, Burgess and Al Ayme, another District B Democrat, announced during a press conference outside the South Norwalk Community Center that they have written Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, appealing them for “the prompt resolution of the case.”
“We want to let them know that the city is stalling, and we want FOI to move on this,” Burgess told The Hour afterward. “I want to see all the records, so we can make a determination if there were environmental conditions at Crescent Street that could affect the people.”
The press conference comes a month after Burgess filed a formal complaint with the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission in Hartford.
“Sixty days and nothing but excuses. That’s all we’re getting,” said Ayme, a 2nd Taxing District commissioner and former Republican.
Not all were pleased with the location of Monday’s press conference.
Joseph E. Mann, executive director of Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, which is housed in the South Norwalk Community Center, said NEON had “absolutely nothing to do” with the event.
“We would certainly be appreciative if this activity could be carried out somewhere other than in the front of NEON where it might well create an obstruction to those attempting to enter our facility for services,” Mann said.
The Freedom of Information request dated Aug. 8 seeks letters, e-mails and other correspondence about the trash-hauling matter from Moccia, council members, members of the council’s public works and health committees, employees of the city’s law department, the director of finance, director of health, director of public works, director of purchasing, city clerk, and “all ‘consultant’ and/or any independent contractors hired on behalf of the city of Norwalk.”
M. Jeffry Spahr, deputy corporation counsel in the city’s law department, said the information request is overly broad and would require a “massive effort” to assemble. Moccia concurred.
“Basically, do we give them two years of every document that had the word ‘City Carting’ in it and ‘garbage’ in it, because (City Carting also does) our recycling?” Moccia said. “We were trying to narrow it down in scope.”
Moccia cited the costs of photocopying the information — 50 cents per page — and noted that District B Democrats don’t believe they should have to pay for those costs. Ayme, for instance, said the fee is waived by law for elected officials seeking information.
Moccia labeled the information request politics.
“The last guy in the world who should ever talk about hiding anything is Bobby Burgess. When he was chairman of NEON, you had to fight to get the legal fees and the lawsuits revealed to the public,” Moccia said. “He’s the last guy that should be talking about FOI. … This is just politics.”
Spahr cited the city’s response to the information request and his request that the FOI Commission step in. In a Sept. 11 letter to the commission, Spahr asked for “an opportunity to sit down with you so that we may discuss a method and procedure by which we can facilitate the production of the requested documents.”
“I took it upon myself, for the first time ever, to call the FOI ahead of time, and say to them, ‘Could you come and help us? I said to Bobby in my letter, ‘To resolve this, I’m more than happy to have somebody from the FOI come down, and to sit and to meet and to talk,’” Spahr said. “I was trying to get the FOI down before a complaint was filed. Now that a complaint has been filed … it’s going to take months and months and months.”
Tom Hennick, public information officer for the FOI Commission, said he could not address details of the case because of the pending complaint. Speaking generally, Hennick said the commission is not in a position to intervene — as requested by Spahr — unless both parties request such intervention.
Now that a complaint has been filed, the commission will review it, send letters to the respective parties and begin mediation “almost immediately,” Hennick said. If mediation fails, he continued, the matter will be scheduled for a hearing. Hennick wouldn’t address the scope of the request nor how long it should take to fill it.
“There’s clearly a strong difference of opinion as to how long it will take to fill the request. The city believes that it is an enormous task,” Hennick said. “That’s at the nub of the matter.”
Burgess and Ayme reject that assembling the documents will require a “massive effort.”
Said Burgess: “They can just tell us where the files are, and we can sit down in their office and look at the files.”
source: The Hour, Dist. B Dems accuse city of foot-dragging on FOI request, By ROBERT KOCH, October7, 2008