Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town plans informational session on Freedom of Information Act

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
October 9, 2006

VERNON - The town will conduct a special seminar Thursday aimed at educating area town officials and residents about the state's Freedom of Information Act.

The special seminar, entitled "F.O.I. 101," will be held between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the second floor auditorium of the Vernon Senior Center, located at 26 Park Place.

Thomas A. Hennick, a public education officer from the state Freedom of Information Commission, will be on hand to go over some of the highlights of the law, which dictates which government records are open to the public and how municipal workers should respond to residents' requesting public documents and data.

Town Clerk Bernice K. Dixon said she scheduled the seminar several months ago after she learned that the FOI commission was willing to come to local towns to discuss the nuances of the law.

Originally, the seminar was intended for town officials from Vernon and other Tolland County municipalities, but Dixon said it made sense to also invite the public.

"It's basically to keep employees and any citizens informed," Dixon said. It's available to us and we are taking advantage of it."

By completing the seminar, Dixon said she hopes municipal workers and residents will gain a better understanding of what the F.O.I. law entails.

For example, occasionally, a resident seeking a large amount of information or documents will expect town workers to drop whatever task they are doing and fulfill their request. But Dixon said town officials actually have four business days to respond.

Some residents are also surprised when they discover that towns can charge them a fee for photocopying public records.

Hennick's presentation, which will include a question and answer session, will also discuss what records are available to the public and which ones aren't, Dixon said.

Town Administrator Christopher Clark, who came to town in June following several years working as a municipal manager in Massachusetts, said the seminar was a good opportunity for him to learn some of the nuances of Connecticut's Freedom of Information laws.

"We are all learning the same thing from someone who is qualified to speak on it," Clark said. "It's always good when you can improve the performance of an organization."

Anyone with questions about Thursday's seminar can contact Dixon's office at 870-3662.

©Journal Inquirer 2006