Executive Order No. 38–A Step In The Right Direction

I have not always been thrilled by some of current administration’s actions with respect to freedom of information, but if someone is going to criticize an administration, he or she also should give credit where credit is due.

Today Governor Malloy issued Executive Order No. 38, which is intended to enhance the public’s awareness and understanding of how state government is promoting economic development.  In particular, the executive order directs the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, in collaboration with several other state agencies, to create a publicly accessible, searchable electronic database or databases containing information regarding certain economic assistance and tax credits that were utilized for the purpose of recruitment and retention of businesses.

This is a very positive development.  As the executive order expressly acknowledges, the public has a right to know how its government is spending taxpayer dollars.  The creation of a searchable electronic database will help transform that basic right into a truly meaningful reality.

Significantly, the executive order also reflects an important development in the nature of how governments deal with freedom of information issues generally.  Historically, local, state and federal governments have adopted a “requester” model for their freedom of information acts.  That is, a member of the public must affirmatively request a public document and then the relevant agency must respond to the request.  That process takes time.  The new database, however, is part of a growing trend in which government entities anticipate public requests for certain types of information by making that information readily available via the Internet. 

I hope, and fully expect, that Executive Order No. 38 is just the beginning of that positive trend in Connecticut.

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