Updated, 10:45 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission last week issued decisions in three complaints filed by Norwalk critic Donna Smirniotopoulos nearly a year ago. All three complaints were dismissed, with a finding that Norwalk did not violate the law, and a city attorney has described the process as extremely time consuming.
Smirniotopoulos in one complaint accused Norwalk of refusing to disclose the name of a candidate for the Zoning Commission before the nomination was sent to the Common Council. In the others, she said Norwalk had denied her access to public records.
In the first two complaints, the Commission affirmed Norwalk’s contention that it had no records to disclose.
In the third, Smirniotopoulos asked for records pertaining to the nomination of “Frank Martini” as a Zoning alternate.
“Those who advise the mayor appear to support the practice of withholding the identities of persons in consideration for land use appointments until agendas are posted for the Common Council meetings at which their appointments will be approved, whether or not there are records responsive to FOI requests,” Smirniotopoulos wrote to a Commission Attorney in May. “… It is in the public interest for the citizens to know well in advance not only what names are under consideration but what the mayor’s process (or lack thereof) is.”
“It is people like me … who suffer as a result of an opaque process that results in land use boards populated by those who do not understand the work requirements,” she wrote.
The name of the man Smirniotopoulos referred to as “Frank Martini” was actually Frank Mancini, which led to a delay, the Commission wrote, affirming that it was not the fault of City officials.
“We are fully aware of our responsibility to provide the public with access to records,” Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr wrote Monday. “We have no interest in withholding these records. I find that if we do not get a document to a demanding person as quickly as they wish that they somehow believe that there is some sort of nefarious plot afoot.”
Spahr, who handles “contentious” FOI requests for the City, said he and then-Assistant to the Mayor Laoise King “spent dozens upon dozens of hours” on the complaints, traveling to Hartford for the hearings.
Smirniotopoulos “constantly sends emails out and seeks responses at all times and on weekends,” and “continued to argue that you do not capitalize the letter M in the word Mayor. She was upset whenever I referred to the mayor as the Mayor,” he wrote. Spahr explained that he set up an auto response to Smirniotopoulos’ emails because “it got too crazy.”
“She would have several threads pending at the same time and it was difficult to keep track of. This way there would be a response,” he wrote. “… I cannot interrupt my other work to constantly address her demands.”
Smirniotopoulos, who is CNNA (Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations) Provisional Executive Committee Chairperson and leader of Friends of Quintard (FoQu), has sent Spahr emails from various accounts, including one bearing the name “Lola Falana,” he wrote.
“This just seems odd,” he concluded.
Smirniotopoulos called the Lola Falana alias a “sobriquet for my own amusement.”
“A multi-talented dancer, singer, actress, and all-around entertainer, Falana was a sexy superstar,” Encyclopedia.com reports. “Under the tutelage of blues singer Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bill Cosby, and Wayne Newton, Falana became, for a time, the highest-paid female performer in the history of Las Vegas.”