Tuesday, August 28, 2007

FOI Complaint Re; Failure To Produce Billing & Insurance Records

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

Connecticut Magazine

Tues., 8-28-07

Complaint / Request For Hearing
Re; Denial Of Public Records Request
By Regional District 10 School System,
Following Request Dated 8-17-07,

State Freedom of Information Commission
18-20 Trinity St.
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Ms. or Sir:

This is a formal complaint following denial of a request for public records.

Please see request letter to Regional District 10 School Superintendent Paula Schwartz dated Aug. 17, 2007; and denial contained in letter from the district's attorney dated Aug. 17, 2007.

Following is a major portion of my request:

In particular, I am also seeking any and all records related to the civil rights lawsuit, Doninger V. Schwartz, Niehoff, et al. These records include but are not limited to: retainer agreement, indemnification clause, retainer check and other checks and invoices; also, meeting minutes, memorandums, phone logs and e-mails regarding the administration's handling of these matters.

As you know, Massamont Insurance is the device used by you and your attorney, Christine Chinni, to cloak public records. A principal in the Hartford law firm brought in to represent you and Niehoff, et al, -- Howd & Ludorf -- acknowledged in today's Register Citizen: "We do have a retainer agreement with Massamont and the company is paying our fees."

You can run and juggle - but you can't hide these records indefinitely. The FOI law requires that records related to the performance of a government function must be produced. Beyond that, the ultimate clients of the additional counsel you have hired -- the taxpayers of Burlington, Harwinton and all of Connecticut -- have a right to know what you are doing with their money and how you are managing their insurance premiums.

As most lawyers understand, clients have a right to see any and all billing records -even billing sharing. And those records - funded by taxpayers - should be produced promptly for anyone who asks to see them.

Following is the denial:

First, the Board does not possess any retainer agreement, indemnification clause, retainer check or other checks or invoices, or meeting minutes from Howd & Ludorf regarding the Doninger civil rights lawsuit. The Board is not a party to the retainer agreement between Howd & Ludorf and Massamont Insurance, and does not possess and never has possessed a copy of that agreement. Neither Massamont Insurance nor Howd &Ludorf is a public agency, and their agreement is not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Any correspondence between Mrs. Schwartz and / or Ms. Niehoff and Howd & Ludorf regarding this matter is exempt from disclosure pursuant to the attorney-client privilege.

In addition, Schwartz has failed to produce the following public records promised by her attorney:

"The Board has in its possession several other documents that are responsive to your request, including: a copy of the bill it received from Massamont Insurance for the first quarter of the 2007-2008 school year, and documentation that the board has paid that bill; copies of bills and documentation of payment of bills from Massamont Insurance in previous years; and a copy of the insurance policy previously in effect between Massamont Insurance and the Board. These documents cannot be made available to you today, but, if you would like copies of them, please contact Mr. Lenihan and he will arrange to have the documents copied for you. His office will contact you when the copies are ready."

Schwartz's business manager told me today he had not seen the current policy, but expected to receive it sometime next month.

I seek the imposition of a $1,000 fine for failure to produce the public records in compliance with the FOI law, as well as mandatory attendance at FOI workshops for the responsible parties and any other sanctions, penalties or admonitions as the commission deems proper. Because of the grave issues in the public interest connected with this case, I request an expedited hearing. The law does not allow school boards or their agents to hide the expenditure of public money. Nor does it allow them to hide a commitment to spend public money.

Meanwhile, I will also be asking the state Insurance Department for copies of any and all ethics code statements required for licensing of companies including Argonaut Insurance, Massamont Insurance and Webster Insurance. Certainly the state Insurance Department has a fiduciary duty to make sure these companies are not engaging in collusion with a renegade school district to hide public records and the trail of the taxpayers' money.


Andy Thibault
Copies to Supt. Schwartz, Gov. Rell, State Insurance Commissioner, Legislature's Judiciary Committee

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