After watching Town Attorney Ira Bloom’s presentation to the Board of Selectman this past Tuesday, it is important to correct the record with respect to the 2021 FOIA complaint that I had lodged against the Town.
The gravamen of my complaint related to 129 responsive public records that were withheld from production. To obtain access to those public records, I was required as a matter of administrative law to file a complaint with the FOI Commission and attend a public hearing. One of the principal outputs of that public hearing was the FOI Commission hearing officer ordering the Town to produce those withheld records for in camera review. After completing her independent review of those public records, as the New Canaanite has accurately reported, the hearing officer publicly issued a proposed final decision to the FOI Commission finding that the Town failed to prove that 15 of those 129 withheld records were exempt from public disclosure and that “[a]ccordingly, it is concluded that the respondents violated the FOI Act by withholding such records from the complainant.”
As the next step in the administrative law process to obtain those improperly withheld public records, I then attended a public hearing before the entire FOI Commission where the hearing officer’s proposed final decision was reviewed and discussed. During that public hearing, Attorney Nicholas Bamonte with Bercham Moses made a series of flagrant misstatements and mischaracterizations to the FOI Commission regarding the gravamen of my complaint, discussions with the FOI Ombudsman, and substance of the earlier FOI Commission hearing officer proceedings. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the Executive Director’s Office at FOI regarding Attorney Bamonte’s conduct at the public hearing. That office recommended that I formally withdraw my 2021 FOIA complaint and issue a new FOIA request for the withheld public documents which I did.
Suffice it say, I then received in relatively short order from Mimi Pitt the 15 identified public records that had been withheld by the Town in violation of the FOI Act. Ironically, those 15 public records were immaterial as a substantive matter to my original FOIA request; a surprising development given the Town’s stonewalling and Attorney Bamonte’s subsequent unethical conduct before the FOI Commission. As other New Canaanites have commented in other contexts, it is unclear who within Town Hall is managing Berchem Moses. In my view, they have run amok, and to the detriment of the Town and its citizens. As attorneys themselves, I would expect Kevin Moynihan and Nick Williams to more competently manage New Canaan’s chosen external counsel.