Normally secrecy and democracy are opposite to each other as openness, debate and information are essential to both policy decisions and informing the electorate in a democracy. Such was the reasoning in the late 1970s when the freedom of information laws were created both in this state and nationally. Sometimes, government is too powerful for its own good. Corruption can be hidden under the cloak of darkness. Information that is supposed to be public, should be, the people would have no recourse for their own protection if these laws had not been passed. There is a process, but such a sophomoric question should have layers of redundancy.
Thus the controversy surrounding a local political issue has been brought forward to the state Freedom of Information Commission. The town of Trumbull, for the second consecutive year, has cancelled the annual concert for the public. This most recent year, though, reasons were not adequately given for the cancellation prompting a freedom request to the Hartford based commission. The commission plans to take up the question at the end of March, as the information surrounding the public event, paid for through public monies is mostly likely considered public information. A solid date has yet to be finalized according to Mr. Bevilacqua, who was just informed that the commission plans to consider the matter, which was communicated to him following an email from the commission.
At the end of last September, I submitted a request for information from the first selectman's office, after he was informed that the First Selectman was the only one who had access to that information. I requested specific information as to why and when the concert was cancelled as the act of cancelling it, incurred a penalty for severance, which the town bore responsibility for, thus making not having the event more costly than holding it. The act, Michael Bolton, suffered damage to his reputation based on the public discourse, and I recognized the lack of openness in the media.
I'm confident that the town of Trumbull will release this information to the public.
What kind of Republic are we, if such privileges of secrecy are claimed over such rudimentary decisions paid for by tax dollars? At some point we will be masking incompetence if we are unable to discern, as an electorate, the real reason for policy changes.
Government's obligation to disclosure is not absolute, just as the media realizes in first amendment cases, but federal case law requires proof of a 'compelling state interest' to protect privileged information, usually of a national security nature, which is not the situation here. In the matter before the state board, thousands of dollars were committed to the show, and the Town abruptly cancelled the performance sitting poor sales, despite already having sold hundreds of tickets. Subsequent questions include whether or not all people who purchased these tickets were in fact refunded the full amount.
In 2011, the Gin Blossoms show was also cancelled as a hurricane struck two weeks before, but many officials claim the event could have gone on since no damage was sustained the concert venue. The original concert series began in the 1970's as part of Trumbull Day, and was offered for free as a thank you to the public, since then tickets now command costs in excess of $40, many of the audience are seniors and the elderly who purchase the tickets through Stern Village or the Senior Citizens center, both managed by the town. The burden of proof will be on the Town of Trumbull to show that this information requested should not be considered public in nature.