Will La­mont help con­ceal mis­con­duct as Mal­loy did?

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - OPINION - By Chris Pow­ell Chris Pow­ell is a colum­nist for the Jour­nal In­quirer in Manch­ester.

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 way would be a good place to start.

* * *

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.

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