Norwalk council’s FOI understanding improving

NORWALK, Conn. – A Freedom of Information Act seminar appears to have made an impression on Common Council members.

The seminar was “extremely informative,” Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said last week, thanking City Clerk Donna King for arranging it. Hempstead suggested that Norwalk will need to hang onto meeting recordings, but Freedom of Information (FOI) Commission public information officer Tom Hennick said that wasn’t quite correct.

Hempstead referred to the need to “do a little housekeeping” at last week’s Common Council meeting.

“I guess we need to make some provisions, if I understood it, unless I interpreted wrong, so that all recordings like this or any other meeting that takes place, sounds like we need to hang onto those, almost sounds like in perpetuity, I guess,” Hempstead said. “… They are part of the city’s business. The minutes reflect a sense of what happened but they are not verbatim.”

Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola said that transcripts “should be retained for some period of time.”

“You have to call the state librarian and ask for permission to destroy them,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. Rilling said he wanted to make sure that Telesco Services, which takes minutes at city meetings, understands that its secretaries are not required to record meetings, but if they do make a recording they can’t destroy it.

Hennick said that is not the case.

“I think I made I clear to them that any record created in the conduct of the public’s business is defined as a public record, but retention laws are in the hands of the Public Records Administrator at the Connecticut State Library. Maybe someone checked in with the retention folks to see what the city’s obligations are in that regard. By the way, private contractors who make recordings to help them with minutes have been found not to have created public records under FOI.”


4 responses to “Norwalk council’s FOI understanding improving”

  1. Sara Sikes

    This is a very positive step for the Council and other agencies should do the same. The Board of Education, in particular, needs a refresher course in transparency.

  2. EveT

    Probably a lot of boards & commissions could benefit from this training. But the issues focused on in this article — how long to retain an audio recording, or whether an audio recording is classified as an official records of a meeting — seem rather complicated and perhaps not really central to the message of FOI and transparency.

  3. Peter Parker

    Excellent, FOI is an important matter and the Council and all City agencies should be aware of its rules and regulations. Hopefully someone has passed this information on to Zoning and DPW.

  4. Donna King, City Clerk

    @EveT you are correct. The workshop did not concentrate on these records retention issues. It mainly reviewed access to records by the public, noticing meetings and electronic records.

    @PeterParker All elected public servants and department heads and staff were invited to this session. CCM is providing another session for those who may have missed the one on 5/14. It is free for CCM members and City of Norwalk is a member. We have encouraged participation again.

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