January 29, 2015
The Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission
18-20 Trinity St.
Hartford, CT 06106
re: Appeal of a Meeting held by Hartford Court of Common Council, January 26, 2015
To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, Conn. Gen. Stat §1-200 et seq., please consider this an appeal what I consider to be a deceptive, unlawful meeting held by the Hartford Court of Common Council on Monday, January 26, 2015 at 7 p.m.
On Monday, January 26, 2015, Gov. Dannel Malloy declared a state of emergency at 9:05 a.m. A true and correct copy of his declaration of a state of emergency is attached as Exhibit 1. At 9:45 a.m., Gov. Malloy declared a travel ban on all roads as of 9 p.m. on Monday, January 26, 2015. A true and correct copy of this executive order is attached as Exhibit 2.
At 11:19 a.m., Hartford Police Department Lt. Brian Foley issued a tweet from his official police department account stating “Stranded and stuck vehicles cripple emergency response. When the storm hits, stay off the streets please.” A true and correct copy of this tweet is attached as Exhibit 3.
On Monday, January 26, 2015, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra declared a snow emergency and closed Hartford City Hall at 12 noon. Most city personnel were sent home at noon in anticipation of the snow. The City of Hartford’s website contains a press release without a time, and an incorrect date (Tuesday, January 26, 2015 did not exist). However, this press release indicates that the City closed for the snow. A true and correct copy of this incorrectly dated press release is attached as Exhibit 4.
Additionally, Mayor Segarra declared a citywide parking ban, which meant that no one could park on city streets. Penalties for violating the parking ban include a $99.00 fine. A true and correct copy of the City of Hartford’s website information on snow ban parking is attached as Exhibit 5.
Contemporaneous news reports from WNPR, posted on WNPR.org at 12:56 p.m. on January 26, 2015, by reporter Jeff Cohen, indicated that Mayor Segarra declared a snow emergency, and that most city employees were dismissed at noon on January 26, 2015. A true and correct copy of this news story is attached as Exhibit 6.
In Mr. Cohen’s story, Court of Common Council president Shawn Wooden stated the meeting would go on despite the public’s inability to attend the meeting because of external pressure for the baseball stadium timeline. This is a deceitful rationale to hold a public meeting in the face of a travel ban, a parking ban and communications from the Hartford Police Department telling people to stay off the roads.
In the comments, this writer indicated this meeting was impossible to attend, and it was known by the Court of Common Council well in advance of this meeting that the general public could not make the meeting.
At 5:15 p.m., Monday, January 26, 2015, Gov. Malloy’s office tweeted, from Gov. Malloy’s oficial account, that “We want to clear the roads as quickly as possible. Please stay off the roads throughout the duration of the storm & let the plows do their jobs”. A true and correct copy of this tweet is attached as Exhibit 7.
At 7 p.m., Council President Shawn Wooden called the meeting of Court of Common Council to order, and it did not adjourn until about 8:15 p.m. The meeting was held despite a citywide parking ban. A true and correct copy of the news report on the meeting from the Hartford Courant’s website is attached as Exhibit 8.
If a city resident drove to this unlawful meeting, that citizen could not park on the street without risking a $99 ticket to attend this meeting. On their way home, facing tough weather conditions, that same citizen could have needed 45 minutes to get home, and thus could have faced a ticket for a violation of the statewide travel ban. It is not inconceivable that in treacherous snow as was falling on January 26, 2015, it could take a traveler 45 minutes to get from City Hall to various parts of Hartford, especially if their car got stuck.
For that very reason, the City’s own police department told people to stay off the roads. If a person wanted to attend the meeting but did not want to drive, that citizen could not take a bus to attend the full meeting. CT Transit announced the last bus would leave downtown Hartford at 7:15 p.m. A true and correct copy of the website announcement from CT Transit is attached as Exhibit 9.
So the only way for a law-abiding citizen to attend an illegal meeting was to walk. It is inconceivable that Court of Common Council would make a citizen walk in a blizzard from the outer reaches of Hartford to Main Street to attend a meeting.
Thus, in these circumstances, Court of Common Council held a meeting that the public could not possibly attend. This was a dishonest attempt at governance, and flies in the face of open, public meeting laws. This deceptive meeting cannot be allowed to stand.
That the Hartford Court of Common Council held this meeting during these weather conditions and legal strictures of the parking ban and travel bans seems a violation of the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act. The public could not attend this meeting. The safety of the public and their right to attend government functions trumps the necessity of an artificial stadium timeline. The desire for a groundbreaking on a stadium cannot overcome the public’s right to participate and observe local legislative action.
As part of this appeal, I request that the meeting should be voided, and all actions taken at that meeting be declared null and void. The meeting must be held again at a time when the public in general can attend without risk to their safety, and without risking legal consequences like parking fines or travel ban fines.
I also request that Court of Common Council President Shawn Wooden and other members of the Court of Common Council attend Freedom of Information Act training on public meetings.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. If there are any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Kenneth J. Krayeske, Esq.