FOI Commission rules that State Police don't have to release images

Stonington — The state Freedom of Information Commission voted unanimously this afternoon to uphold a hearing officer's recommendation that state police do not have to release images that First Selectmen Ed Haberek allegedly sent to a Pawcatuck woman using his town-issued BlackBerry in January 2010.

The Day had requested access to the state police investigation and had filed a complaint with the commission when state police refused to release the material.

Police said the material was exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information law because the investigation ultimately involved uncorroborated allegations and a signed witness statement and records that, if disclosed, would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.

Hearing officer Valicia Dee Harmon had agreed with the state police position after she held a hearing on the matter in February.

State police had obtained search warrants to seize phone records, computers and hundreds of pages of material from Haberek's Facebook account after the woman filed a criminal complaint. Police later determined that no crime had been committed.

During this afternoon's hearing, The Day again argued there was on overriding public interest in releasing the Facebook images and messages because such behavior often results in the discipline of employees in both the public and private sector.

The Day maintained that residents had a right to know if the town's chief elected officer used equipment assigned to him for town business to engage in such behavior.

The Day also argued that the alleged communication between Haberek and the woman using equipment assigned to him to conduct town business were public records like most communications been residents and town officials and should be released.

The commission also rejected The Day's argument that the fact the images later became part of criminal investigation should not negate that they were originally public records.

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