Hand 'em over, Haberek

Due to a production error, an earlier draft of this editorial mistakenly appeared online. It has been removed. Below is the editorial as intended for publication.

As awkward as it may prove for him, Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek must soon stop the stalling and hand over the records from a Sept. 4, 2009 complaint, filed by a female town employee, alleging inappropriate behavior by him.

In a decision that should surprise no one, Freedom of Information Hearing Officer Victor R. Perpetua has concluded the town should “forthwith provide (The Day) with an unredacted copy of requested records.”

We fully expect the Freedom of Information Commission to approve the recommendation at its July 23 meeting. Townspeople should protest loudly if Mr. Haberek even hints at a court appeal and a further waste of tax dollars. Mr. Haberek now claims he wanted to release the information from the start, but acted on advice of counsel in not doing so. OK, then release the records now.

The Day and Staff Writer Joe Wojtas learned of the 2009 harassment complaint during Mr. Haberek’s 2013 campaign for first selectman. Allegations about Mr. Haberek’s personal conduct had become an issue in the campaign. The Haberek administration’s stonewalling got the candidate through the election cycle without a release of the records; how convenient.

Mr. Perpetua, who reviewed the records in private, writes in his decision that they include the complaint, a memo on how it was handled, “a chronology, from September 3, 2009 through September 9, 2009, of issues involving Haberek, (and) communications and meetings among town officials concerning (the complaint) …”

They are not, as town officials claimed in trying to block public access, preliminary drafts. They are records of the “actual decision-making process about the concerns raised” and “reflect historical facts and decisions, not the Town’s deliberations about or assessments of those facts,” concluded Mr. Perpetua.

Though the employee making the complaint later withdrew it, satisfied she had made the first selectman aware of his inappropriate conduct, she testified under oath at the FOI hearing that her allegations were accurate and she did not retract them.

Had the town released the information when The Day made the request, it could have lawfully exempted from the records the name of the woman claiming harassment, according to Mr. Perpetua’s decision. However, at the May 19, 2014 hearing, the town attorney called her as a witness — identifying her in the process — to testify that she wanted the records kept closed to protect her privacy.

It seems apparent to us whom the Haberek administration was actually interested in protecting — him.

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