Stewart Accused of Denying Access to Council Videos to a Critic

Press Pool Story

A city resident says that the city denied her a copy the video of a public City Council meeting after Republican Mayor Erin Stewart apparently questioned whether the resident planned to use the video to disparage her.

The resident made comments on Facebook, dated December 14th, asking, “Does a public official have the right to restrict my access to public information because I am critical of them?”

The resident’s comments include an image, apparently of an email message from Stewart, displaying Stewart as saying, “This is the first I am seeing from you asking for access to this information. … Who will be the focus of your video? Based on previous accusations and assumptions you have made about me on your social media accounts, are you planning to use this footage in a disparaging way?”

The message in the image ends with signature text “Mayor Erin E. Stewart, City of New Britain, 27 West Main Street”. The address of the mayor’s official office is at 27 West Main Street.

In her Facebook posting, the resident goes on to ask, “When requesting access to public information is it appropriate for a public official to ask this before denying my request? … Anyways, this was in August. I just submitted my second request for copies of the council videos. … I request the videos directly from nutmeg and they said I had to get permission from Stewart.”

On January 18th, the resident posted on Facebook, “Update: I filed an FOI request. Now it’s me against some lawyer representing Stewart and the City. … Seems like a bit much just to keep a local college student from getting a few copies.” In a separate post that day, she also asked, “Anyone know a good lawyer who could help me (pro-bono) with my Freedom of Information Act claim against the mayor? … I certainly didn’t think it would get to this point over a few videos but I also don’t want to let the city’s lawyer scare me off.”

In the end, it appears that it was Stewart who buckled. On January 19th, the resident announced, again on Facebook, “Hey all! Check out the new feature on the City’s website…/meeting-audio-archives.html !!! …
Common Council audio is now available for download, no approval process needed. I am glad this info was made more freely accessible. Wish it was done to begin with but happy nevertheless.”

In her Facebook post, dated December 14th, the resident had said, “I was requesting copies of the common council meeting videos for a video project I was working on to urge new britain citizens to be active in local politics. I did not plan on using any footage of Erin Stewart and I sent her an email articulating this.”