Friday, August 03, 2007

Lawyer Plays

Cat & Mouse Game

With Write-In Votes,
Other Public Records

Ballots Apparently
Are Stored Somewhere

P.O. Box 1415 Litchfield, CT 06759
Cellular 860-690-0211 * Fax- 860-567-9119

Connecticut Magazine

Fri.., 8-3-07, 6:30 p.m.

Paula Schwartz, Superintendent
Regional School District #10
24 Lyon Rd.
Burlington, CT 06013

(860) 673-2538 ext. 2; Fax:(860) 675-4976
by fax, e-mail and regular mail

Re; Lawyer Plays Cat & Mouse Game
With Write-In Votes, Other Public Records
Ballots Apparently Are Stored Somewhere

Dear Ms. Schwartz:

This letter follows the filing of a complaint with the state FOI Commission this morning regarding your lawyer's denial of a request for write-in ballots and our subsequent conversation at 10:45 a.m.

In that conversation this morning, I asked you whether you might have any documents available for inspection following my requests of Wednesday and Thursday.

"Certainly not," you said.

"That's not acceptable," I responded, whereupon you said documents would be provided "in due course."

I said I would check again Monday and you responded, "That's fine."

Then, this afternoon, I received a letter via fax from your lawyer.

Among other things, your lawyer told me I might or might not receive certain documents "upon remittance of the applicable fee." You will recall I requested a waiver of any and all fees because this information is in the public interest. In the words of the FOI law, this disclosure would "benefit the general welfare."

In any case, the law does not permit you, your lawyer or anyone else to levy a charge for inspection of public records. Indeed, the law demands that citizens be allowed to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours.

I hope neither you nor your lawyer find these statements of fact threatening. I say this because when I made similar statements about compliance with the FOI law and penalties for document destruction in my initial FOI request, your lawyer characterized them as "threatening."

Your lawyer also made a curious distinction without a difference. She said the Region 10 Board of Education did not make copies of the ballots I requested. Any reasonable or competent person would know from my request that I was asking for access to the write-in ballots. Therefore, my complaint to the FOI Commission regarding denial of access to the ballots stands.

One cannot be certain, from dealings with your lawyer, whether the ballots in question are stored somewhere. However, from her most recent correspondence, it appears that is the case. I will deal with other elements of her correspondence as necessary. My focus is to obtain public records promptly as required by law.

Again, I affirm my requests for all the information requested in prior correspondence - to be produced promptly, in compliance with the law. The time to comply with this aspect of the law is passing, if it has not passed already.

Now is the time to cut the cat and mouse games and produce the documents. The disingenuous stonewalling by your lawyer serves no one's interests.


Andy Thibault
Copies to state Freedom of Information Commission, Gov. Rell, Chief State's Attorney, Secretary of the State Bysiewicz

Chinni Letter To A. Thibault 8-3-07

Atty. Christine Chinni
Chinni & Meuser LLC
30 Avon Meadow Lane
Avon, CT 06001
Phone: 860-677-0255
Fax: 860-677-1792

Re; Your request to the Regional District No. 10 Pursuant to the
Connecticut Freedom of Information Act, Dated August 2 and 3, 2007

August 3, 2007

As you know, this firm represents the Board of Education for Regional District Number 10 (the "Board") in general matters. The Superintendent of the Region 10 Public Schools has forwarded your electronic mail messages sent on August 2 and August 3 to us for a response.

First, the board intends to charge you for any and all documents provided to you pursuant to your requests, at the rate set forth in the Board's policy.

Second, as I stated in my previous letter to you, the Board does not possess any "billing records related to legal work that has been farmed out to the firm Howd & Ludorf and / or [this firm] regarding alleged civil rights violations by [Mrs. Schwartz] and [her] administration against students including Avery Doninger." Neither this firm nor Howd & Ludorf has sent Region 10 any billing regarding the Doninger matter, has entered into a retainer agreement with Region 10 concerning that matter in particular or any other matter concerning student civil rights in particular, or has received an indemnity clause or retainer check regarding that matter or any other alleged violation of any student's civil rights. You did not, as you allege in your more recent documentation, request copies of court documents. Moreover, your request was made to Region 10, and I responded on their behalf. Chinni & Meuser LLC is not a public agency, and is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act. (the "Act.") Accordingly, any documents in our firm's possession, or that of Howd & Ludorf, that are not in possession of Region 10, are not subject to provisions of the Act. As you have now made a request for legal bills received by Region 10 from this firm from January 2007 to the present, you will receive copies of those documents once the information contained in them has been redacted and you remit the applicable fee. You will be notified when the documents are ready for you.

Third, as I stated to [my sic, A.T.] in my previous letter, many of the documents described in the third paragraph on your letter, including meeting minutes, memorandums [sic] phone logs, and emails between the Board and its counsel are partially or fully exempt from disclosure pursuant to the attorney-client privilege. The Board is entitled to review any such documents and, if necessary, redact all privileged information prior to providing them to you, and the Board will exercise its right to do so. If there are any documents in the Board's possess [my sic, A.T.] which are responsive to this request and which are not fully exempt from disclosure pursuant to the attorney-client privilege, the Board will notify you once the redacted copies of the relevant documents are available, and they will be provided to you upon remittance of the applicable fee.

Fourth, you requested access to "copies of the write-in votes for Ms. Doninger," or memos and emails regarding such write in votes." The Board did not make copies of any ballots. If you would like copies of the original ballots, and make such a request, the Board will review the original ballots, and determine whether they are subject to disclosure, in whole or in part, pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA". [my sic, A.T.] If you make such a request, and the Board determines that the documents are not covered by FERPA, you will be provided with copies of the documents upon receipt of the applicable fee. If the Board determines that the documents are covered in their entirety by FERPA, you will not be provided with these documents. If the Board determines that portions of the documents must be redacted pursuant to FERPA, you will receive copies of these documents once the material that is exempt from disclosure under FERPA has been redacted from them, and you have remitted the applicable fee.

Fifth, as I informed you in my letter dated August 1, 2007, there are no documents or memos concerning the "seizure of free speech t-shirts." Accordingly, the Board will not be providing any documents in response to these requests.

Finally, while the Board often handles routine FOI requests without the assistance of counsel, the threatening tone of your initial letter, and the allegation contained therein that records may have been destroyed, led the Board to decide that your request was best handled by its attorneys. Your subsequent offensive, intemperate and inaccurate correspondence led the Board to determine that its attorneys should continue to handle the matter.


Christine L. Chinni

Cc. Paula Schwartz

1 comment:

Maverick said...

Hi Andy,

Sara here, with WikiFOIA. We’re a new Wiki accumulating all kinds of information about open records at the state and local level. Our associated blog, “State Sunshine and Open Records,” is at

I recently noticed that you have been blogging about open records in Connecticut, and I added a link to your blog in the “Connecticut” section of our WikiFoia: WikiFOIA - Connecticut. Good work.

I’d be delighted if you would consider adding a link to the WikiFoia or to the “State Sunshine” blog (or both!) on your blog. The greater the number of links, the better we can get our important information out to the general public.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Sara Key (aka Maverick)