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Thursday, May 14, 2015


Not everything at Hartford City Hall is a mess. One area that deserves praise is the Office of the City Clerk, specifically Clerk John Bazzano and staff person Eric Lusa ( not to leave anyone out, the entire staff understands customer service and should be an example to everyone in that building, John and Eric are the two people I dealt with on this project)

Shortly after the Mayoral election filings were due, I went to City Hall to review the documents. I wasn't expecting what I was given. The reports were several hundred pages for two of the candidates. The cost of having them copied to then scan as PDF files to post here would have been very expensive , especially at the statutory set rate of fifty cents per page. I appreciate transparency, but not when it would cost me probably over a thousand dollars in copying fees.

The more I thought about it, the more I figured paying  50 cents a page for copies was an outdated way to obtain documents. I also knew almost all of the copiers at City Hall, in fact most copiers in use today, can scan a document to a PDF file as quick as it can copy it.

One of the things that is apparent with the FOI laws is that they  are constantly trying to catch up with technology. One of the things most people aren't aware of is that if a document is saved or available in electronic format , you can ask for it that way when requested. This alleviates the need to run to City Hall to pick up ,a paper document when it can just as easily be e-mailed. The intent of FOI was not to create a revenue stream for government agencies to be a copying service, it was meant for the easy distribution of documents, the public's right to know.

 Since most business is done by e-mail  or PDF files or Word documents, almost everything can be obtained electronically.

I went back to thinking about the campaign filings. If a staff person in the Clerk's Office was going to stand at the copier and photocopy all of the pages, couldn't they just as easily scan it to a PDF file and alleviate the cost for the copies. I spoke with a person at the FOI Commission who thought the idea was reasonable for the PDF scan rather than several hundred copies. The only problem was that there apparently hasn't been a test case decided by FOI on the PDF scan versus copies.

The FOI person though it was reasonable and said I would probably win the argument if I filed a complaint to set the precedent. The only problem is you have to have a complaint to file first.

I called the Hartford City Clerk, John Bazzano and asked about receiving the filings electronically and explained it seemed to make sense to me to get a scan and it would take the same amount of time to scan as it would to copy.  I was almost hoping for a denial from Bazzano in order to file an FOI complaint to establish the precedent. Within an hour I received the email from Eric Lusa in Bazzano's office with all the PDF files attached. Bazzano has always been someone who understands the meaning of transparency.

There was some difficulty in sending the files because of their size and earthlink's limitations on file size, but Bazzano and Lusa persisted, and the filings are public information here for your viewing pleasure.

Thank you John and Eric for your commitment to open and transparent government


Anonymous said...

I agree with your comment about the Town Clerk's office, Kevin. Everyone I've dealt with there--including Eric Lusa--has been friendly, prompt, courteous, and some have even gone above and beyond--one by finding pertinent, useful information in addition to that which I'd been seeking--information that I didn't know even existed, another one who delivered hard-to-find information I'd requested to me at a meeting in the upstairs function room, and one who took a phone call from me seeking other important information, and called me back 15 minutes later with an answer.

Alyssa said...

Magnify the excellent example of work and service seen in ALL Clerk's office staff and imagine if that model were replicated throughout the City. Sadly, John Bazzano declined to run for the mayor's office. But here's a possibility: Bazzano becomes COO under Mayor Killian. Then in 4 years he runs himself, if the judge serves one term. Hartford residents and businesses want a well-run city. Period. Forget all of the lofty crap spewing forth from candidates.

Richard Nelson said...

Well my story is quite different. I have been waiting for 3 days for an answer to a very simple question.