From FB: States poised to limit your 1st amendment rights to protest publicly

https://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2017/02/24/gop-lawmakers-push-bills-to-limit-protesting-in-17-states

Lawmakers Push Bills to Limit Protesting in 17 States

FREE SPEECH?

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

From FB: Corruption in NJ is reigned in, 44 arrested

44 Charged by U.S. in New Jersey Corruption Sweep

Agents led suspects from F.B.I. headquarters in Newark on Thursday. The inquiry began with questions on money laundering.
Credit…Louis Lanzano/Associated Press

A two-year corruption and international money-laundering investigation stretching from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn to Israel and Switzerland culminated in charges against 44 people on Thursday, including three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis, the authorities said.

The case began with bank fraud charges against a member of an insular Syrian Jewish enclave centered in a seaside town. But when that man became a federal informant and posed as a crooked real estate developer offering cash bribes to obtain government approvals, it mushroomed into a political scandal that could rival any of the most explosive and sleazy episodes in New Jersey’s recent past.

It was replete with tales of the illegal sales of body parts; of furtive negotiations in diners, parking lots and boiler rooms; of nervous jokes about “patting down” a man who turned out to indeed be an informant; and, again and again, of the passing of cash — once in a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000.

“For these defendants, corruption was a way of life,” Ralph J. Marra Jr., the acting United States attorney in New Jersey, said at a news conference. “They existed in an ethics-free zone.”

Mr. Marra said that average citizens “don’t have a chance” against the culture of influence peddling the investigation had unearthed.

Even veteran political observers were taken aback by the scope of the investigation. The mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield were among those arrested.

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“This is so massive,” said Joseph Marbach, a political scientist at Seton Hall University. “It’s going to just reinforce the stereotype of New Jersey politics and corruption.”

The arrests had immediate reverberations in the governor’s race, and a member of Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s administration was forced to resign after federal agents raided his home.

The authorities laid out two separate schemes, one involving money laundering that led to rabbis and members of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn and in the Jersey Shore town of Deal, where many of them have summer homes. The other dealt with political corruption and bribery and involved public officials mostly in Jersey City and Hoboken, where the pace of development has been particularly intense in recent years.

From FB: For profit foster child companies sponsor corruption as well as children

Senate Finds 86 Children Died In Care Of Giant For-Profit Foster Care Firm, Citing BuzzFeed News

Two years after a BuzzFeed News investigation, the Senate introduces the Child Welfare and Accountability Act to track foster care contractors.

Posted on October 18, 2017, at 9:04 a.m. ET

Milam County District Attorney

Two-year-old Alexandria Hill was murdered by a foster mother recruited and trained by the US’s largest for-profit foster care company, The Mentor Network.

At least 86 children died in a 10-year period while in the custody of a giant for-profit foster care company, according to an investigation by the US Senate Committee on Finance. In only 13 of those deaths did the company, The Mentor Network, conduct an internal investigation, the committee found.

The Senate committee said the company “falsely” claimed that its child death rate was in line with the fatality rates in the overall foster care system.

The Senate probe started in part because of a series by BuzzFeed News that profiled problems at the company, which was the largest for-profit foster care provider in the country. In one case a 2-year-old girl who was placed at a home run by Mentor was murdered by her foster mother. In another case, a series of boys were sexually abused by a Mentor foster father, whom Mentor paid as a foster parent for years despite a series of red flags. He had requested that he be sent boys who were “male, white, any age.”

Though Mentor denied the claim, employees told BuzzFeed News that the pursuit of profits sometimes took priority over child welfare. (The company is owned by Civitas Solutions, Inc., which recorded $1.4 billion in revenue last year and trades on the New York Stock Exchange.) As BuzzFeed News reported in 2015, profit margins in the business can be very high. For Mentor, BuzzFeed News reported, earnings before taxes and amortizations could be as high as 44%.

As a result of the committee’s investigation, the chairman, Orrin Hatch, and its ranking member, Ron Wyden, introduced legislation Monday to require states to disclose the contractors they use in privatized foster care, and to report to the federal government how those contractors perform.

In privatized foster care, states or local governments outsource child welfare duties to companies or nonprofit organizations. Those entities then hire the caseworkers, recruit, screen, and train foster parents, and place children with them.

The Senate, for its extensive probe, surveyed all 50 states, but the results, the report discloses, were too inconsistent to be useful in comparing foster care providers. Seventeen states didn’t even respond. “Some States collect information, perform reviews, and maintain data in paper files that are never entered into an electronic database or that are never synthesized into a single report or review,” the committee noted.

The Senate committee saved some of its harshest language to condemn a report that Mentor submitted in which the company claimed its fatality rate was not high. Mentor said that its death rates “are comparable with national norms.’’

But the committee said that the conclusion was “false,” “inaccurate and misleading.” In fact, the committee said, “MENTOR’s death rate among foster children is 42% higher than the national average.”

The committee also criticized the company’s incident reports, which it said were “incomplete” and included “inaccurate information and diagnostically implausible conditions.”

Mentor reported a total of 86 deaths between fiscal years 2005 and 2014. Of those deaths, 23 had been categorized as “expected” by the company, presumably meaning that the child was suffering from a grave illness, while 62 were “unexpected.” (In one case, the company didn’t provide that information.)

In an email to BuzzFeed News, Mentor said that it had just provided the Senate with updated figures indicating that 94 children died over a longer period, fiscal years 2005–2017. The company said that 56 “had medically complex conditions and/or a diagnosis (es) that would cause premature death.” The company said other deaths were out of its control.

Mentor also said that although the Senate reported that there were only 13 internal investigations of child deaths at the company, “This number does not represent the actual number of investigations.”

From FB: Lying CPS workers are at it again.

So tell me, why isn’t DCFS/CPS testing for psychopathy at the first internview?  Seems they’re actually attracted to psychopaths.

https://www.wjhg.com/content/news/Lynn-Haven-child-protective-investigator-arrested-for-falsifying-records-422031214.html?fbclid=IwAR2FoQJwIBDnJhwy_K8wtoq4ZDESg8oVsAfLpk_D0QSE94rf0-dgtDek_cM

Lynn Haven child protective investigator arrested for falsifying records.

    

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement says it arrested a Lynn Haven child protective investigator for falsifying records.

FDLE agents say they arrested 37-year-old William Edward Bond for falsification of records. They say he is a child protective investigator with the 14th Circuit Court.

Agents say on July 29, 2015, Bond documented he conducted a face-to-face welfare visit with a foster child at the child’s residence on July 24th.

Officials tell us the child’s foster parents said he did not conduct that visit and records showed the foster child was not picked up from daycare until after the recorded in home visit.

Authorities say Bond’s mileage log for July 24th showed he did not document a visit to the foster child’s residence as he claimed.

Bond was booked into the Bay County Jail on May 10th. The Office of the State Attorney with the 14th Circuit will prosecute this case.

From FB: Dozens in Sacramento Cal. DFS have criminal records

https://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/article2572308.html

 

 

Drug possession, domestic violence, repeatedly driving drunk, assault with a deadly weapon – any one of these charges or convictions could lead child protective services workers to remove children from a home or force a parent into counseling.

But all of those crimes and many others appear in the backgrounds of employees of Sacramento County’s Child Protective Services, a Bee investigation has found.

A review of the agency’s 969 workers employed as of Oct. 1 found that at least 68 individuals – 7 percent of the work force – have criminal records in Sacramento County alone. The number is likely to be even higher because some names were too common to retrieve all criminal complaints linked to them, and records in other counties were not searched.

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Although the county child protection agency has a policy to perform criminal background checks on prospective employees – and says it is alerted by the state if a current employee is arrested – the ranks at CPS include offenders convicted of such crimes as possession of heroin for sale, theft, embezzlement, spousal abuse, obstructing an officer, prostitution and identity theft.

One county worker who was a receptionist at two CPS offices is a registered sex offender. One social worker has a pending court case over claims that she harassed her neighbors with laser beams and obscene tirades. A family service worker was charged in August with stealing gas from a county pump.

CPS Director Laura Coulthard and her boss at the county, Lynn Frank, declined to be interviewed. But The Bee’s examination prompted Coulthard to issue two memos to agency employees in the past month, warning that their names and criminal histories might be published.

Neither she nor other top county officials would discuss their policies for deciding what kind of criminal background would preclude someone from being hired or when and why exceptions are made.

CPS workers are entrusted with Sacramento’s most vulnerable residents: abused and neglected children, living in broken families. These workers are charged with passing judgment on parents’ fitness. They testify under oath, serving as the eyes and ears of the juvenile court system.

“Just because they don’t carry a gun doesn’t mean they don’t exercise extraordinary power over children and families,” said William Grimm, an attorney at the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law. “Forcing them to adhere to the highest level of conduct seems legitimate to me.”

Some Sacramento CPS employees’ arrests date back years, while others are current. Some committed serious crimes while working for the agency but remained on the job for months and even years – sometimes on paid leave.

Among The Bee’s findings:

Six CPS family service workers who go into people’s homes to help families have been convicted or face charges of drug possession, theft, embezzlement or possession of heroin for sale.

Many of the convictions are for driving under the influence and reckless driving, including 15 workers who have close contact with children and families. Some of their jobs require them to transport children to safe locations, often in the middle of the night. Three CPS social workers have multiple DUI convictions, including one arrested three times between 1999 and 2005.

At least 17 CPS office assistants who handle sensitive case files have faced some of the most serious charges, including spousal abuse, illegal weapons possession, witness tampering, failure to provide for a child, identity theft, grand theft, embezzlement of county resources, welfare fraud, injury to a spouse and obstructing an officer.

Repeated arrests – even for violence – do not appear to be an automatic impediment to CPS employment. One office worker employed since 2001 faces spousal abuse charges in a pending case and has previous arrests for DUI, gambling, spousal abuse and witness tampering, court documents state. A police report taken in that worker’s 1993 spousal abuse case states that “he admitted association with the Sacramento Blood Brothers, which is a violent gang.”

One worker, who prepares legal documents for children and families in crisis, faced charges between 1994 and 2000 that included two DUIs, assault with a deadly weapon, spousal abuse, theft and check fraud. She was hired in 2000, the same year she faced felony charges of forgery, fraud and methamphetamine possession.

ADVOCATE STUNNED

Criminal background checks for public and private employees are increasingly common, raising questions of fairness, privacy and the notion of rehabilitation.

And hundreds of CPS workers stay clean and do their jobs well, propping up fragile families and venturing into the toughest neighborhoods.

But one prominent child advocate believes the arrest histories uncovered by The Bee suggest deeply systemic problems.

“My sense is that this is the result of a leadership vacuum at CPS and a failure to demand accountability among the workers,” said Robert Wilson, executive director of Sacramento Child Advocates, whose attorneys represent children in dependency court.

One 36-year-old Sacramento mother, whose two children were removed from her care by CPS, said she is outraged that some agency workers have criminal pasts – yet may be in a position to testify against parents like her.

“I’m very angry,” said Desiree McCarthy, whose 6- and 14-year-old kids were taken amid allegations of drug use. McCarthy denies abusing illegal drugs but said she has struggled with prescription painkillers, and the aftereffects of head surgery.

“I think this is a disgrace – an outrage,” she said. “The bottom line is, they’re hypocrites.”

The Bee’s study of workers’ criminal histories stems from its ongoing investigation of problems at CPS, which began 18 months ago and has sparked a county grand jury investigation and an independent, county-ordered audit.

While investigating the death of a 3-year-old girl who died after being under CPS’ watch, The Bee found that the social worker in the case had problems of her own.

That social worker, Alexis Hince, said she believes her brushes with the law were an asset to the agency, helping her relate better to clients.

“I related to my clients in such a way that it is more than book knowledge or resource-related,” she said.

Hince was assigned to what became one of the agency’s most controversial cases last year, in which 3-year-old Valeeya Brazile was beaten to death after her CPS case was closed.

Valeeya’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend face charges in the death of the girl, who suffered a series of suspicious injuries before the fatal beating. Court records obtained by The Bee indicate Hince failed to report those injuries to the court or to the girl’s court-appointed attorney.

A review of Superior Court files shows Hince’s problems began before she was hired by the agency – and continued.

She was charged in 2000 with failing to report all her income and receiving overpayments of $7,509 in food stamps and welfare. She pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and received probation, court records show.

CPS hired Hince in January 2005. A year later, she again was charged with welfare fraud stemming from payments received in 2002 and 2003. She pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors and was ordered to repay $6,368.

In that case, Hince was accused of taking money from Child Action, a program that administers child care subsidies to needy families – and is often recommended by CPS to its struggling families.

In January, a Sacramento judge dismissed the cases.

Hince, 35, said she was never asked about the 2000 case when she was hired and that she didn’t have to disclose it because it did not involve a felony conviction.

“The reality is, the department does background checks,” she said, “they were aware of my background and I would even go as far as saying my ability to be able to relate to the clients we serve is very important.”

Hince said she was never disciplined for her work at CPS, but added that she has been on paid leave since Oct. 2, the day a Bee story about her handling of Valeeya’s case appeared. She said she never was told why she was placed on leave, and that her superiors had told her not to talk to The Bee.

“If it’s your desire to create change, social workers are not the problem,” Hince said. “Your targets should be upper management, the courts, the Board of Supervisors.”

LINKED TO PRISON DRUGS

Hince was not the only social worker charged with a crime while employed by the agency.

Deanna Bennett was celebrating her 28th birthday when she drove onto the grounds of Folsom State Prison in April 2006 at about 6 p.m.

An associate warden watching her red BMW saw a plastic grocery bag tossed from the window and later discovered it contained 4 grams of methamphetamine, 30 grams of marijuana, two bags of tobacco and numerous lighters and rolling papers, court documents state.

Prison officials set up a stakeout and watched as two inmates mowing grass scooped up the contraband.

Bennett initially told investigators she ended up at the prison because she got lost after shopping at the Folsom Premium Outlets. She said she didn’t know anything about the package, court records say.

Investigators later identified Bennett’s passenger as a woman on felony probation for taking narcotics into the Mule Creek State Prison in Amador County. She was married to a Folsom prison inmate and told authorities she had prepared the package for delivery to him.

Bennett was charged with two felonies. In an interview, she denied knowing that her friend planned to throw the contraband onto the prison grounds, but she acknowledged that she pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor in 2007 and got three years of probation.

The social worker remained on the job for more than two years after the incident and, in the midst of management efforts to discipline or fire her, she was commended in writing at least twice for her work.

A Nov. 9, 2007, letter from Director Coulthard congratulated Bennett for “the tremendous contribution you make to children and families every day.”

Bennett said she was placed on paid leave last April. County documents cited “poor judgment” and “dishonesty” that show “you cannot be trusted to make decisions or provide credible sworn testimony on behalf of Sacramento County.”

She resigned last August but she said she thought it was unfair that she lost her job.

“I personally know other people in my department who have misdemeanor convictions, so I really didn’t think they could dismiss me for that,” she said. “I know people who had gang affiliations who were working there.”

ON THE JOB AFTER HARASSMENT

Another CPS social worker remains on the job after being convicted in El Dorado County for violating court orders that she stay away from neighbors she had allegedly harassed since 1999 with tirades, laser beams and other abuse.

Cynthia Lee Quinn was accused of harassing one family by “constantly flipping they and their friends off, repeatedly making obscene telephone calls, training a laser pointer or sight from a gun onto victims, videotaping victims, shining lights into the interior of the (victim’s) residence” and videotaping them, according to El Dorado Superior Court documents.

Her actions, which allegedly included repeatedly placing nails in one family’s driveway, continued despite restraining orders issued by the court, the documents indicate.

Sacramento CPS eventually found itself involved with the El Dorado County case. One family that moved to escape the harassment reported that six months later, Sacramento CPS workers came to their new home investigating an anonymous report that they “were beating their young daughter in the front yard,” court documents state.

“It should be noted that Defendant QUINN was at that time and is still, employed by the agency as a Family Maintenance Social Worker,” the records state.

Prosecutor Gloria Mas said she believes that Quinn, 49, was responsible for the call to CPS, adding that the social worker had sent angry letters to people using a Sacramento CPS fax machine. Quinn received probation in the original case, but Mas said she filed a petition in court Feb. 27 to revoke it.

Quinn, who could not be reached for comment, contended in court documents that she was the victim of harassment by neighbors who shouted at her and annoyed animals living on her property. She claimed that sheriff’s deputies were “rude and belligerent.”

HISTORIES ALARM COLLEAGUES

Some criminal histories uncovered in The Bee’s review of hundreds of court files are years old. Most of the older misdemeanors have been purged from county files, while other records show that defendants later returned to court, proved to a judge they had been rehabilitated and had the original charges dismissed.

Even after such dismissals, legal experts say applicants for public jobs or licensure by a state or local agency must reveal past convictions, if asked.

Within the agency, some workers expressed alarm about their co-workers’ pasts – and, in one instance, a 23-year-old case expunged in 1997 generated concern.

Until early this year, families arriving at Sacramento’s Child Protective Services office on Power Inn Road were greeted in the waiting area by receptionist Sandra Diane Queen, who is registered on the state’s Megan’s Law Web site as a sex offender with a conviction for lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14.

The roomy waiting area often is packed with children, playing on colorful wooden-bead tables while families await classes or meetings.

A CPS employee, who contacted The Bee in January after learning of Queen’s background, said her listing on the Megan’s Law site became known around the office last year and was particularly upsetting to social workers.

The county’s solution was to move Queen to the front reception desk in the administrative offices on East Parkway, which house Coulthard and Lynn Frank, director of the county Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS.

In her new location, the 52-year-old county worker assigned to CPS continued to be among the first people members of the public met.

Court records show that Queen, then known as Sandra Diane Williams, pleaded guilty in Sacramento Superior Court on Sept. 16, 1986, to a felony count involving sexual acts with a child and was sentenced to a year in jail and four years of probation.

She petitioned the court in 1995 to declare the offense a misdemeanor to help her find work and to acknowledge that she had been rehabilitated.

Friends, co-workers and fellow church members wrote letters testifying to her good character, while the District Attorney’s Office and probation department opposed the move.

The court approved her motion in June 1997, records indicate. However, she still must register with law enforcement as a convicted sex offender.

Queen, who declined to comment, does not face restrictions on where she can live or on contact with minors.

A CPS spokeswoman acknowledged Queen’s employment with the county since December 2007 but pointed out that she is an assistant for the Office of the Director and technically not a CPS employee.

CRIMINAL CHECKS NOT UNIFORM

Office assistants at CPS are on the county’s list of positions subject to criminal history checks. That list includes other obvious positions, such as family service workers and social workers who have daily contact with children.

But the county’s policy allows each department discretion in deciding whether a conviction “will affect the applicant’s or employee’s qualification for the position” – or whether it can “be disregarded on the basis of mitigating circumstances.”

Before coming to CPS, office assistant Brian Matthew Foster, 40, worked with a company that contracts with the county to run community service programs for defendants.

Court documents allege that while in that job, Foster took cash payments from defendants, entered a lower amount in the books, then pocketed the difference.

He also offered to complete documents showing defendants had completed community service hours – even if they had not – in exchange for payments, the documents allege.

An investigator’s statement filed in court says more than $38,000 was lost in the scam, which ended when Foster called in sick and his replacement discovered the alleged ruse.

Hired at CPS in July 2000 while his case was being investigated, Foster ultimately pleaded no contest to a felony count in 2002 and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

Contacted by The Bee, Foster denied the allegations and blamed clerical errors rather than criminal intent.

“It was more like it was an error in putting the paperwork in the wrong place,” he said.

Foster was ordered to pay more than $18,000 in restitution, documents state. He said he repaid the money and has had no other legal problems.

In 2005, a Sacramento judge agreed Foster had fulfilled the requirements of his sentence and dismissed the case.

Foster said one CPS supervisor indicated the agency was aware of his case, but nothing else was discussed about it.

In placing Foster on informal probation on Dec. 19, 2002, the judge ordered him to obey laws and “see and/or maintain regular and steady employment.”

By then, Foster already was working for CPS.

From FB; evil spreads with more mass detention facilities for migrant children open in Texas

https://apnews.com/259d11069cbd4a34be9b4e7a187352da?fbclid=IwAR3QbtDJSYs6FYwtcfJJ0aa-bw-nj4dUH4oLDvhi5RS6LxJDax5AMMIM-jI

US opens new mass facility in Texas for migrant children

June 7, 2019
FILE – This May 29, 2019 file photo released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shows some of 1,036 migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, the largest that the Border Patrol says it has ever encountered. The federal government is opening a new mass shelter for migrant children near the U.S-Mexico border and is considering housing children on three military bases to add 3,000 more beds to the overtaxed system in the coming weeks. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP, File)

The federal government is opening a new mass facility to hold migrant children in Texas and considering detaining hundreds more youths on three military bases around the country, adding up to 3,000 new beds to the already overtaxed system.

The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold as many as 1,600 teens in a complex that once housed oil field workers on government-leased land near the border, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone. Most of the children crossed the border without their parents, escaping violence and corruption in Central America, and are held in government custody while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.

All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters, so they won’t be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements, Weber said. In January, the government shut down an unlicensed detention camp in the Texas desert under political pressure, and another unlicensed facility called Homestead remains in operation in the Miami suburbs.

“It is our legal requirement to take care of these children so that they are not in Border Patrol facilities,” Weber said. “They will have the services that ORR always provides, which is food, shelter and water.”

Under fire for the death of two children who went through the agency’s network of shelters and facing lawsuits over the treatment of teens in its care, the agency says it must set up new facilities to accommodate new arrivals or risk running out of beds.

The announcement of the program’s expansion follows the government’s decision to scale back or cut paying for recreation, English-language courses and legal services for the more than 13,200 migrant toddlers, school-age children and teens in its custody.

The Health and Human Services department, which oversees the refugee office, notified shelters around the country last week that it was not going to reimburse them for teachers’ pay, legal services or recreational equipment, saying budget cuts were needed as record numbers of unaccompanied children arrive at the border, largely from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In May, border agents apprehended 11,507 children traveling alone.

Attorneys said the move violates a legal settlement known as the Flores agreement that requires the government to provide education and recreational activities to migrant children in its care. Last week, attorneys filed a motion claiming that the government also was violating the decades-old settlement by keeping kids at Homestead for months in some cases, instead of releasing them within 20 days.

“If they are going to open the program up in these numbers and they can’t even manage the influx facility that they have in a humane way, then compounding that is going to be disastrous,” said Holly Cooper, an attorney at the Immigration Law Clinic at University of California, Davis who represents detained youth.

Advocates have slammed the move as punitive, saying such services are typically available to adult prisoners.

“ORR’s cancelling of these services will inflict further harm on children, many of whom continue to languish for months without being placed safely and expeditiously into a sponsor’s care. That is not only unacceptable, it could be in violation of the law,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee with oversight on the agency’s budget.

From FB: State police broke FOIA law when it refused to turn over body cam/dash cam video footage

James Rovella, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, speaks at a news conference at Bradley International Airport in October after a vintage plane crashed, killing seven people.
James Rovella, commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, speaks at a news conference at Bradley International Airport in October after a vintage plane crashed, killing seven people. (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant)

In a win for right-to-know advocates, the public and journalists, the state Freedom of Information Commission has ruled the state police broke open record laws when the agency denied a request by the Republican-American newspaper in Waterbury for dash and body camera footage of a high-speed chase and then refused to acknowledge for a time that the records existed.

And in what appears to be an unprecedented move that drives home the significance of the ruling, the commission ordered the state police to receive mandatory re-training on responding to requests for public information and meeting its obligation of transparency.

“We’re pleased the training was ordered,” Anne Karolyi, the newspaper’s managing editor, said Friday. “The commission has noted that there does seem to be a systemic failure by the state police to recognize that the public’s right to know is not an option.”

Journalists and members of the public seeking information from the state police have long encountered resistance. The Courant pressed for additional records on Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza for five years before the Connecticut Supreme Court ordered the release of thousands of pages of withheld documents last year.

Veteran Republican-American reporter Jonathan Shugarts, who initiated and pursued the complaint with the newspaper’s backing, reported the commission cited the state police on at least 29 occasions since 2010 for violating the “prompt release” provision of the FOI law. There were 60 FOI complaints lodged against the state police in 2019, he reported.

“It has been a frustrating few months dealing with this complaint, but all of it was necessary, and worth it, in order to obtain records on behalf of residents of the state,” Shugarts said. “I hope that state police personnel who are responsible for handling FOI requests take their retraining seriously and provide records promptly to the public in the future.”

 

State police officials had not seen the commission’s ruling as of Friday afternoon, but they are familiar with hearing officer Matthew Reed’s findings last month that formed the basis of the full panel’s decision.

“I’m certain we will embrace the recommendations,” said Brian Foley, an aide to state public safety Commissioner James Rovella, whose agency includes the state police. “Since the commissioner came here last year, we’ve been trying to improve transparency. This ruling should actually help us in that effort.”

The genesis of this case, Karolyi said, was reporting Shugarts did in the spring of 2019, in which he requested dash and body camera video from several area police departments, including the state police.

“It really was a test, a spot check on how the departments were responding to FOI requests,” she said.

Some of the departments responded right away and it was also revealed that one of the agencies hadn’t bought the body cameras it said it was going to buy. The state police acknowledged receiving the request — but did nothing more.

Reed, the hearing officer and a former South Windsor police chief, found that the state police erred when the agency said only a news release, not the requested records, were releasable. Reed noted the agency failed even to prepare the promised news release.

He found the department provided the Republican-American and Shugarts with “an incorrect summary” of the FOI law, and that records of arrest, despite the agency’s claim otherwise, are public form the time of arrest “and shall be disclosed.”

Reed noted that state police asked the prosecutor handling the criminal case related to the chase if the requested video files should be withheld “in light of the pending case.”

The prosecutor, Catherine Austin, said there was no objection to releasing the records.

Still, Reed noted, the state police refused to release the material. And Reed noted that, in any case, asking a prosecutor for permission “is not an action sanctioned by the FOI statute.”

Eventually, the state police released the video files, but Reed found that “a promptness request cannot be rendered moot through the act of providing public records at a later time.”

Karolyi said she hopes Rovella’s expression of respect for the FOI provisions “trickles down through the rest of the department.”

“This was a friendly reminder about the responsibility for those in state government to be transparent,” she said.

Josh Kovner can be reached at jkovner@courant.com.