This notice appeared in the Dec. 30, 2021 edition of the Harbor News.
LEGAL NOTICE for Old Saybrook Democratic Town Committee Elections Caucus: January 10, 2022.
To enrolled members of the Democratic Party of the Town of Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
Pursuant to the Rules of the Democratic Party and State election laws, you are hereby notified that a caucus will be held on:
January 10, 2022, at 6:30 pm, at the Vicky Duffy Pavilion at Saybrook Point,
155 College Street, Old Saybrook, Connecticut
to endorse candidates for the Democratic Town Committee and to transact other business as may be proper to come before said caucus.
Dated at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, on the 16th of December, 2021.
Democratic Town Committee of Old Saybrook, John J. O’Brien, Chairperson
- Caucus is open to all registered Old Saybrook Democrats.
- Caucus must be attended in person. Virtual links are not allowed
- Masks are required to be worn by all Caucus attendees.
OSPC Takes Point on Public Feedback
BY ERIC O’CONNELL/ZIP06.COM • 12/08/2021 08:34 A.M. EST
OLD SAYBROOK —
At the first Police Commission (PC) meeting following the election, the body made a major change to commission protocols by naming the PC chairman as the point of contact for public communications to the commission. That contact had previously been Chief of Police Michael Spera.
Now, when residents or other members of the public want to reach out with questions, positive feedback, suggestions, and complaints regarding the department as well as the PC, new PC Chairman Alfred Chub Wilcox is the key contact person.
Having Spera serve as the point of contact had rankled some citizens and commission members in 2020. Some were critical of having the chief of police be the person receiving their communications, especially if they were messages complaining about the department, an officer, or the chief himself. Some residents expressed a concern that the procedure could potentially allow serious issues to be hidden from the commission and prevent the members from properly overseeing the department.
“I was struck by how backward that seemed, that citizens had to go through the chief to get in touch with the commission,” said Wilcox.
Wilcox acknowledged that while the change may be symbolic, it could reinforce the notion that the commission is not a part of the Old Saybrook Police Department and is there for oversight.
After citizens brought up concerns in 2020, a motion to change the point of contact failed to pass in a December 2020 PC meeting. The vote was along party lines with five Republicans voting against the measure compared to two Democrats.
At the Nov. 22, 2021 meeting, the results were markedly different as the commission unanimously voted to change the point of contact. The impetus for this change was the highly publicized and sometimes bitter election that saw the power of the PC change from a Republic majority to a Democratic one. The five new Democratic candidates ran in part on increasing the transparency of the PC by adopting measures like the one voted on at the Nov. 22 meeting.
“I hope for people that they have a clearer understanding what we are. We are not subservient to the police department or the police chief. We are there independently of them and are not a part of them,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox said that in time for the next meeting there will be contact information for each PC member on the website. Wilcox also said that the commission will review the bylaws at a future meeting.
We are so thankful to all our candidates and committee members who worked so hard on this election. We are proud to introduce our newly elected office holders:
Selectman: Matthew J Pugliese
BOF: John J O’Brien
BOF: Bruce W Carlson
BOE: Karen E Brodeur
BOE: Eileen D Baker
BOAssessment Appeals: Joan B Strickland
Planning Comm: Kathleen A Sugland
Police Commission: Renee Root Shippee
PC: Alfred Chub Wlcox
PC: Jessica Calle
PC: Jill Notar-Francesco
PC: 2 year term: Carol A Manning
Park & Recreation Comm: Nancy Shepard Gatta
Park & Recreation Comm: Jane B Wisialowski
Harbor Management Comm: Robert B Soden
Police Commission Must Not Turn its Back on Sworn Duty
BY LETTER TO THE EDITOR OCTOBER 26, 2021
To the Editor:
In all the high drama some are bringing to the issue of the citizen complaint mailed to me and that I have retained, I ask that people not lose sight of why I made that decision. It is not because I want to create controversy. It is certainly not because I take pleasure from some family’s troubles. It is simply because I take seriously my obligation as a member of the Old Saybrook Police Commission to provide civilian oversight for our Police Department.
The document in question is a civilian complaint against the department we oversee. Pursuant to our by-laws, we refer that complaint to our Chief of Police in the first instance. But that by no means ends our responsibility. As commissioners, we must exercise our authority to ensure that the department addresses the complaint promptly and conducts its investigation professionally. For us to do that, we must not deprive ourselves of the information sent to us by the citizen whose complaint we are to oversee. If we deliberately deprive ourselves of all institutional memory of that complaint, we would be turning our back on our sworn duty.
Alfred “Chub” Wilcox
Old Saybrook, CT
THIRD AND FINAL STATEMENT BY ALFRED (“CHUB”) WILCOX:
The Rose Opinion Letter
Voters have seen the October 7, 2021 opinion letter by Attorney Michael Rose posted by Chief Spera on the OSPD website and read aloud by Chairman Keeney at the October 19 special meeting of the Police Commission. They have also seen statements by Mr. Spera and Chairman Keeney touting that letter as a way of blasting Renee Shippee and me, just weeks before the November 2 election. The voters are entitled to my response.
I don’t know the “facts” or “issues” Chief Spera instructed Mr. Rose to assume or to address (because Mr. Spera refused to let me see them), and so I am reluctant to overly criticize Mr. Rose. However, having enjoyed a forty year career as a litigation attorney, I understand the laws he cites and the analysis he makes.
That analysis is fundamentally flawed:
John Doe’s records were his private records, not “public records” of the police department.
Mr. Rose is therefore wrong in his FOIA analysis.
Mr. Rose therefore greatly exaggerates any risk of liability on the part of the Town.
For those readers interested in the bases for my assessment, here it is.
JOHN DOE’S RECORDS ARE HIS PRIVATE RECORDS
Chief Spera has acknowledged that the records John Doe shared with each of the Commissioners were lawfully in his possession, and that John Doe was not under any legal constraint preventing him from sharing them with the Commissioners or anyone else. John Doe’s records are therefore his private records, not “public records” that must be kept and maintained at the police department (“OSPD”).
MR. ROSE IS THEREFORE WRONG IN HIS FOIA ANALYSIS
The whole purpose of FOIA is to enable private citizens to review and obtain copies of public records. That is why FOIA requires that public records must be “kept and maintained” in an accessible place at the public agency’s regular office or place of business. In response to a FOIA request a private citizen can obtain his or her copy of the public record. That copy thereupon becomes the citizen’s private record. FOIA does not mandate that the public agency is required to grab the citizen’s copy back, because to do so would defeat the whole purpose of FOIA. Similarly, FOIA doesn’t prevent the citizen from sharing what is now their private record with anyone they choose.
Mr. Rose thus mistakenly assumes that the document in my possession is a “public record” of the OSPD which I must return to that department. But it is not a public record; it is my copy of a private record, mailed to me by a private citizen who was entirely within his rights in doing so.
MR. ROSE GREATLY EXAGGERATES THE TOWN’S RISK OF LIABILITY
Mr. Rose says that if the police department doesn’t safeguard these documents from public view, then the “Department and the person who has the records are subject to whatever punishment the [FOIA] Commission deems appropriate as well as any civil suit should the documents fall into the hands of any member of the public….”
As noted above, the documents in question are not police department documents any longer.
Moreover, the civil penalty provided under FOIA is no less than $20 and no more than $1000. It can only be imposed “upon the finding that a denial of any right created by the [FOIA] was without reasonable grounds and after the custodian or other official directly responsible for the denial has been given an opportunity to be heard at a hearing.” Sec. 1-206(b)(2). Since the Town is neither granting inappropriate access unreasonably (so far as I know) nor denying appropriate access unreasonably, the risk of any liability under this section seems extraordinarily remote.
Similarly, since the Town is neither granting nor refusing access unreasonably, nor presumably being sloppy in maintaining the department’s records, it is difficult to imagine how the Town is at risk of liability in an “invasion of privacy” type private lawsuit.
Finally, since I have not and will not expose the documents in my possession to anyone, I think the concern hypothesized by Mr. Rose that I might allow the records to “fall into the hands of a member of the public” is not worth considering. I have had these documents in my possession since early July, and none of them has yet to see the light of day, despite incessant goading by Chief Spera and others to get me to say more about these documents in order to correct the misimpressions being circulated. I hope that gives all concerned comfort that I am not a “loose cannon” about to plaster these documents on some public forum. I strive to adhere to the high standard of circumspection the public has a right to expect from a member of the Police Commission, consistent with the oath I took when I was sworn in as a commissioner.