Connecticut’s Governor Has A Bad Idea…

The Hartford Courant could have slugged this editorial simply as NOOOOOOO!

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to fold the FOI Commission into a new super-watchdog agency. Consolidations do save money, and The Courant has endorsed the merger of the state’s economic development agencies. But the watchdogs should be kept separate — especially the FOI Commission, which defends citizens’ interest in seeing details on how government works.

The governor would merge the FOI Commission, the state Elections Enforcement Commission, the Office of State Ethics, the Judicial Review Council and the Contracting Standards Board into an Office of Governmental Accountability. None of these watchdog agencies should be exempt from cost-cutting. Perhaps they could share office space and copying machines. But their staffs should be independent.

Most of all, the Freedom of Information Commission should be on its own. It serves as a check on all of government, including the other watchdogs.

The merger could create conflicts of interest. What if, for example, the new head of this super-watchdog agency (who might be appointed by the governor) is the subject of an FOI request? What if the governor who appointed him or her is FOIed?

The FOI Commission is all about openness. The other watchdog agencies, however, must sometimes be sensitive to privacy matters. Judicial Review, for example, is respectful of judges’ confidential discussions on individual cases. This is a bad match with FOI.

That is a massive understatement. The state’s FOI Commission is a national model for independence and efficiency, and to consolidate within other watchdogs will create an endless conflict of interest.

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