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Stonington officials going back to school on freedom of information law

Stonington - The state Freedom of Information Commission ordered the town on Wednesday to release a union grievance filed by Zoning Enforcement Officer Joe Larkin and to undergo educational training to become familiar with the requirements of the state's freedom of information law.

The commission voted unanimously to uphold a complaint by The Day which had requested a copy of the grievance Larkin filed last spring after the town cut his job from full time to part time. The town refused to release the grievance even though previous FOI decisions had found that such grievances are public documents and must be released.

The town did not send a representative to Tuesday's commission meeting in Hartford during which the commission heard comments on the case before issuing its decision.

The commission agreed with a recommendation by FOI hearing officer Victor Perpetua that town officials attend an educational training session on the requirements of freedom of information law led by a commission staff member. The Day requested the training. In addition, the commission also agreed with Perpetua's recommendation that it "encourages, in the strongest possible terms" that town labor attorney Michael Satti participate in the educational session because the town acted based on his advice.

The town has argued it did not release the grievance because Larkin has said it would violate his privacy. Doing so, it said, would put the town in legal jeopardy.

But Perpetua wrote that the town provided no evidence to prove that it reasonably believed that releasing the grievance would constitute a legal invasion of privacy and no evidence that releasing the grievance was an invasion of Larkin's privacy.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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