Stonington finance board to discuss school security recommendation behind closed doors

Stonington - The Board of Finance is scheduled to go behind closed doors tonight to discuss a recommendation by Police Chief J. Darren Stewart that $100,000 be included in the proposed 2013-14 budget to pay for additional school security.

Stewart had included the $100,000 in the budget he submitted to the town, but First Selectman Ed Haberek cut the allocation to $1, saying he first wants to see a plan developed in conjunction with town and school officials that spells out exactly how the money will be spent.

"The security of our schools is paramount, but my question is, what is it for? I'd like to hear that rationale," Haberek said.

The finance board is slated to meet at 7 p.m. at the police station.

Both Haberek, who said he was surprised about the scheduling of the closed session, and Tom Hennick, the public education officer for the state Freedom of Information Commission, raised questions about the legality of the finance board discussing "school security matters" in closed session.

While FOI law does allow executive sessions to discuss "security matters," Hennick said that is typically interpreted to mean details such as how and at what times officers will be deployed and the operation and location of security cameras and doors. He said the exemption would not pertain to whether the town should spend money to hire additional officers for security or buy new cameras, which is the purview of the finance board.

Asked about the executive session, board Chairman Glenn Frishman said it was his understanding that Stewart would be discussing security protocol.

When asked for a justification of the session, Frishman forwarded a copy of the FOI summary sent to him by Stewart that states executive sessions are permitted for "security matters."

It did not contain any applicable case law or legal opinions. The board had not contacted Hennick for advice. Stewart could not be reached to comment Tuesday. Frishman said that if the finance board is ready to take action on the security allocation, it would do so in public session.

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