Will Lamont help conceal misconduct? Is new gun law needed?

Another scandal at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain is emphasizing the need not only for better management at the university but also for strengthening Connecticut's Freedom of Information law against the constant sabotage by government employees and their unions. 

Central's latest scandal involves allegations of repeated sexual assaults by a university police officer on another officer, the university's failure to act on them, the university's hiring of several former Hartford police officers with poor disciplinary records, and general indiscipline in the university police department. 

The officer accused of the assaults has been fired but Central is refusing to disclose the discipline imposed against the university's police chief and other university police officers — and the university may not have to disclose the discipline. For while state Freedom of Information law ordinarily requires disclosure of the disciplinary records of state government employees, another law allows state employee union contracts to supersede FOI law. If such a union contract prohibits disclosure of disciplinary records, they may be concealed. 

Obviously this is grotesquely contrary to the public interest and signifies state government's longstanding subservience to the government employee unions. The supersession law should be repealed, though repeal seems unlikely any time soon, now that the Democratic Party's majorities in the General Assembly have increased dramatically and the party has become even more the tool of the unions. 

So the situation raises an urgent question for Connecticut's incoming governor, Ned Lamont, who during his campaign acknowledged the need to persuade the public that state government is becoming more efficient and accountable. Will the new administration, like the discredited administration of outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, sign more contracts subverting the public's right to know about misconduct in government? 

In his campaign Lamont often promised change, and strengthening the right to know. This would be a good place to start. 

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NOT ANOTHER GUN LAW: Last January a 15-year-old boy accidentally killed himself while playing with a gun at a friend's house in Guilford, so his parents want another gun-control law enacted. With its usual sanctimony the General Assembly probably will oblige, but like most gun laws, another one will make little difference. 

The gun in the Guilford case, owned by the father of the dead boy's friend, is said to have been stored in a closet with its trigger locked. But the dead boy's friend, also a juvenile, knew where the key to the lock was. Ammunition was stored next to the gun. Alone in the house, the boys often played with the gun. Then it went off. 

For facilitating the accident the dead boy's friend has been charged with manslaughter. The dead boy's parents wish that the father of their son's friend could be charged criminally instead. But state law criminalizes only negligent storage of loaded guns when children under 16 may be around, and the gun's owner didn't load the one in question. So now not locking up unloaded guns may become a crime. Of course the real objective remains to outlaw guns entirely. 

Simply having kids might as well be criminalized too, since youth always will be reckless. But by age 15 young people should know better than to play with guns, loaded or unloaded, just as they should know better than to play in traffic. Otherwise they shouldn't be left alone, as the boys in Guilford were. In this case the law already has fixed responsibility well enough. 

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut. 

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