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Lamont’s office violated state open records laws in AP case, Connecticut panel rules

Gov. Ned Lamont introducing Paul Mounds, center, as chief of staff, and Josh Geballe, left, as chief operating officer on Feb. 27, 2020.
Mark Pazniokas
/
CTMirror.org
Gov. Ned Lamont introducing Paul Mounds, center, as chief of staff, and Josh Geballe, left, as chief operating officer on Feb. 27, 2020.

The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission ruled Wednesday that Gov. Ned Lamont’s office violated state open records laws by taking more than two years to fulfill a request filed by The Associated Press in 2020 for documents related to the COVID-19 reopening committee.

The commission, which voted unanimously in favor of a hearing officer’s recommendation that Lamont’s office be ordered to “strictly comply” with the state’s FOI law, also voted to require staff to undergo training in the law.

The Associated Press initially filed an FOI request on May 21, 2020, seeking any and all written and electronic communications concerning plans to reopen the state’s economy following pandemic-related shutdowns. The information was sought as part of a 50-state project by The AP to determine whether and how reopening plans across the country were being influenced by various interest groups or individuals.

After multiple follow-up requests, The AP didn’t receive any documents until eight months later. However, the majority of emails were not provided to the news organization until June 9. A limited number of text messages were provided on July 29.

Representatives for Lamont’s office conceded during a September hearing that the documents were not provided promptly, testifying they were short-staffed and focused on pandemic-related issues. They said additional staff have since been hired and updated computer software obtained to search for documents more easily.

“I think we’re getting things sped up,” Lamont said Wednesday. “I hope that’s the case.”

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.

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