FOI Panel Hears Issue
Group: Town Held Back Documents
By LORETTA WALDMAN
Courant Staff Writer
June 5 2007
SIMSBURY - The state Freedom of Information Commission on Monday heard a
complaint filed by a member of the homeowners' group leading the opposition
to the controversial Simsbury River Oaks project.
Chuck Ward of Simsbury Homeowners Advocating for Responsible Expansion filed
the complaint in January, accusing the town of not providing all the
documents he requested and not quickly turning over those they did provide.
Ward filed the second of two FOI requests with the town in December,
essentially asking for any and all communication - including e-mails -
between town officials and members of four town land-use boards and the
developer of Simsbury River Oaks, Konover Development Corp.
In his Jan. 27 complaint, Ward said he and other Simsbury residents were
seeking the documents as part of their year-long research effort into what
Ward described as "a variety of self-serving activities and conflicts of
interest among elected and appointed town officials" with regard to
River Oaks, a 60-acre, $200 million mixed-use development at the southern end
of Route 10 featuring a Target store.
At the hearing in Hartford,
town attorney Robert DeCresenzo attributed the delays to the size and scope
of Ward's request, which, he said, made it difficult to interpret and to
fulfill. The two town officials charged with handling Ward's request - town
planner Hiram Peck and Brandon Robertson, director of administrative services
- also testified. Both said questions they and members of the land-use boards
had about the request slowed their response, though Robertson admitted
failing to acknowledge receiving the request within four days as required by
Much of Monday's nearly three-hour proceeding focused on technicalities such
as what could be admitted as evidence and the validity of Ward's claim of not
getting all the documents he requested. Under questioning by DeCrescenzo,
Ward could not specify exactly which documents those were.
"Are you saying the burden is on me to know what I can't possibly
know?" Ward asked.
"I'm saying the burden is on you to specify what documents you haven't
gotten," DeCrescenzo replied.
John Lucker, another SHARE leader accompanying Ward at the hearing, said the
conundrum highlighted systemic problems with the way documents are maintained
by the town and officials make them available to the public.
"This is one of those situations where you don't know what you don't
know," Lucker said.
Ward's first request was filed in August 2006 and produced just over 400 documents,
many of which he called "largely useless" copies of a brochure on
River Oaks mailed townwide by Konover, information already on the town
website and documents so heavily redacted that they made no sense.
FOI Commissioner Dennis O'Connor asked both Ward and DeCrescenzo to submit
briefs summarizing their positions with 10 days, after which a date for a
second hearing would be scheduled.
Contact Loretta Waldman @firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2007, Hartford Courant