Stonington formally denies request to release consultant's report

Stonington — The town on Tuesday formally denied The Day’s request for a copy of a consultant’s report that analyzed the operation of town departments and makes recommendations for improvement.

In his letter, First Selectman Rob Simmons maintained that the report is still in draft form and thus exempt from disclosure under state Freedom of Information law “because the Town believes the public interest in withholding the draft at this point in time clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

The town has paid $15,000 for the 20-page report and Simmons said last week he has begun implementing some of its 50 recommendations. But in his letter, Simmons said that while the original agreement with consultant Keith Chapman called for providing the town with a draft report in September, followed by a final report in January, Chapman did not provide the draft to the town until January.

In his letter, Simmons said “there are certain topics and issues in the draft that may not become part of the final report, which could become problematic if the draft version is released now.”

He said draft sections that may be edited or removed from the final report, such as those outside the scope of work of the consulting agreement, requires nondisclosure at this time. He said the town also needs to vet the process used by Chapman to ensure there is a factual basis for his conclusion.

Last week, Simmons said he and the Board of Selectmen have not had the opportunity to review the draft because they have been busy with developing the proposed 2017-18 budget, state aid cuts and other issues.

Simmons said he plans to review the draft report with Chapman as soon as possible so that he may finalize the report. As soon as it is finalized, Simmons said he would release it to The Day.

State freedom of information law states that preliminary drafts or notes can be exempt from public disclosure “provided the public agency has determined that the public interest in withholding such documents clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

j.wojtas@theday.com

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