Sandy Hook Panel Crippled By Secrecy, Lack Of Money

The Hartford Courant

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Sandy Hook Advisory Commission has the talent to write an informed, insightful narrative of Adam Lanza's descent into madness and make recommendations that just might stop another massacre of children.

Tragically, the narrow obsession of some state officials with privacy is preventing the advisory commission from making a full and complete accounting.

People should be angry about that.

Last year, Mr. Malloy appointed his panel of experts and asked them to pay "particular attention" to school safety, gun violence prevention and mental health. Mental health — especially Mr. Lanza's — is at the top of the agenda now. The panel has a June deadline to file a final report.

But the commission faces tough sledding. One problem, as reported by The Courant's Jon Lender, is the refusal of state police to give the commission files that are not filled with blacked-out redactions. Another is the lack of a budget and staff.

This contrasts with Virginia's granting a $400,000-plus budget to the panel that investigated the shooting deaths of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in 2007 by Seung Hui Cho. That panel had cooperation from law enforcement agencies and access to unredacted records.

Dr. Harold L. Schwartz — a member of Mr. Malloy's commission and chief psychiatrist at The Institute of Living — said the Virginia report is a "model" that aided the public's understanding of that state's immense tragedy.

When asked why the Malloy commission didn't get budget support, a spokesman for the governor said, in effect, "They didn't ask."

Why not give the commission a clean copy of the state police report? Because, said the governor's office, the public will then see it. And is that so bad? Sound policy is based on facts.

It seems a fool's errand to appoint a commission and then deny it the information (and the budget) needed to fulfill its mission.

Dr. Schwartz said the governor's commission can still issue a report with "important and constructive" recommendations. But it won't be as helpful in illuminating the Sandy Hook issues.

Too many public officials in Connecticut would rather sweep tragedy under the rug than learn from it.

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