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Stonington attorney a no-show at Freedom of Information training

Stonington - When the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission ruled in February that the town violated state law last year by refusing to release zoning enforcement officer Joe Larkin's union grievances, it ordered town officials to undergo training in the requirements of the state's freedom of information law.

The commission also encouraged "in the strongest possible terms" that town labor attorney Michael Satti participate in the session after it criticized his handling of the case. Satti had advised the town not to release the grievances after The Day had requested them.

But on Tuesday morning, when FOI public education officer Tom Hennick led the two-hour training session for a dozen town officials and employees at the police station, Satti was not in attendance.

First Selectman Ed Haberek said he had invited Satti to the meeting, which was scheduled seven weeks ago.

But Haberek said the town could not force Satti to attend as he is not an employee but more of a contract worker.

"It's his choice. As a lawyer he has his own legal training," he said, adding that Satti could have had a scheduling conflict. "I don't know."

Haberek could not say whether Satti's failure to attend would affect how the town views his performance.

Satti could not be reached for comment.

As for the session itself, Haberek said it was very informative for him and his staff, and it will result in the town implementing changes so it can better comply with the law in the future.

Among those attending were Police Chief J. Darren Stewart, Acting Director of Planning Keith Brynes and Public Works Director Joe Bragaw. Pawcatuck resident Carlene Donnarummo, who frequently attends meetings of town boards and commissions, also was in attendance.

The Day had requested that the town and Satti undergo the training because previous FOI decisions had found that grievances such as the ones filed by Larkin are public documents and must be released. The decisions came just two months after the FOI commission had ordered the town to release documents concerning the discipline of highway department employee Ernie Santos, who was accused of threatening a fellow employee. The town, under advice from Satti, had refused the Day's request for those documents.

The town paid Satti more than $7,500 for his advice and work on the two cases.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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