Some high-ranking state officials continue to plunder their credibility in their quest to shut the public out of the people's business. The assault on the public's sensibilities reached a Captain Queeg-like level of madness with the release of Danbury State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III's investigation of the slaughter of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Dec. 14.
Sedensky is on a crusade, and in any jurisdiction around the world there is nothing like the danger of a prosecutor who abandons reason to a cause. Sedensky and others have been battling the release of 911 call recordings and other documents from that horrifying day. One contrivance to achieving that ignoble goal is for Sedensky to designate the massacre as an incident of abuse and neglect under the state's child protection laws.
A consequence of Sedensky's machinations is that he had to omit the names of the 20 children who were the victims of the lunatic Lanza in Sedensky's long-awaited report. The document that will be referred to for decades as the most comprehensive and reliable account of that day that scarred the nation will not include a mention of Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, Ana Marquez-Greene, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison Wyatt.
It is an embarrassment and, worse, an injustice. The report contains plenty of names as Sedensky uses the historic document to drop compliments on colleagues and others. He even adds a valentine masquerading as a footnote for the judge who was available to sign warrants. Judges review and reject or sign warrants. It's a basic responsibility of the job. In this case, the judge is one that Sedensky and his lawyers are likely to appear in front of in the future.
Sedensky is unlikely to offer the same smarmy praise for Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott. He's the jurist who on Tuesday ordered the release of recordings of the Sandy Hook 911 calls from that horrible day. He rejected Sedensky's astounding claim that releasing the recordings would discourage others from making 911 calls in an emergency. What a low opinion Sedensky has of the human condition.
Sedensky also argued that the 911 calls are the equivalent of witness statements and are, therefore, exempt from disclosure. Prescott said that line of attack on the Freedom of Information Act "borders on the frivolous." That's not the way judges usually write about prosecutors in Connecticut.
The Danbury prosecutor's taste for secrecy contains other dangers. It emboldens the nasty loons who arise after every public tragedy to give voice to denials that the event ever happened. Governments that disdain public access laws feed rampant suspicion and countenance lawlessness.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's administration continues to showcase this disregard for the law that ensures the public's right to records as enshrined in state statutes for nearly 40 years. Last Sunday, my colleague Jon Lender wrote a column about the shadow network of private email accounts used by many administration officials to conduct public business.
A veteran investigative reporter, Lender met the same stonewalling I did a few weeks ago in trying to get Malloy's office to disclose where the thousands of emails in those private accounts are stored after an official leaves the administration.
If you walked into one of the state's 169 town clerks' offices and took a page from a volume of land records, you would face a criminal charge. In the Malloy administration, legal counsel Andrew McDonald left for a seat on the state's Supreme Court. Adviser Roy Occhiogrosso returned to his communications business and the warm embrace of a lucrative state contract. Neither turned over tens of thousands of messages conducting public business on private Gmail accounts.
The governor and his people have enshrined arrogance and bullying as a governing philosophy. That political religion requires an altar devoted to secrecy, obfuscation and double talk. They have constructed it with their shadow communications network that needs to be dismantled, and its contents handed over to responsible officials.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.