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FOI requests are just a fishing expedition

By EDWARD HABEREK JR.

Publication: The Day

Published August 09. 2014 4:00AM

Since The Day and Stonington reporter Joe Wojtas enjoy utilizing me as fill-in "news" for their headlines ("Stonington seeks FOI guidance on Day request," Aug. 6) I thought it best to set the record straight myself by providing the facts.

Stonington reporter Joe Wotjas continues his "fishing expedition" by now requesting through Freedom of Information almost three years of aged emails, texts and telephone records in an effort to try to discredit me personally.

This request that we have been working on has consumed a great deal of staff hours to correlate such information in the archives, town attorney fees to handle privileged material, and work time sorting through the huge amount of material for no particular reason. During the time of this request we also were working on budget deliberations, infrastructure work, personnel changes and more. We continue to work on these critical town activities.

At the June 25 Board of Selectmen meeting, Wotjas was asked personally more than three times, not to mention several other times by the town attorney, what specifically items he wanted, and he refused to provide such an item.

For example, on average I receive and transmit almost 100 emails a day, from residents, official entities, complaints and/or staff and respond to them. Such emails may be routine, but also emails may include privileged information - negotiations, personnel, medical, personal. Multiply this by almost three years and you result in a voluminous material to inspect. Not to mention all other communication that has been requested.

Furthermore, during this period of time we were impacted by a number of situations including natural disasters, personnel changes, negotiations and more, which certainly increased that amount of traditional communication that occurred. This results in a enormous undertaking with such an arbitrary request.

The legal definition of "harassment" is "the systematic and/or continued unwarranted and annoying actions of one part or a group, including threats and demands. Such purposes may vary including personal malice." It seems the repetitive obsession by The Day and reporter Wotjas of me falls under this category. We will continue to work on this request, but I think staff time and town monies can be better devoted to other activities than their obsession of me.

Edward Haberek Jr. is first selectman of Stonington.

Editor's note: The Day is doing its job in seeking to verify through these electronic messages information it has received about Mr. Haberek's conduct in office. This newspaper will continues to press the Freedom of Information Commission for public release of text messages and emails sent from Mr. Haberek's town-issued BlackBerry. The Day is not asking for three years of documents, but only 22 months in 2011 and 2012. The town ceased using BlackBerries in late 2012. The Haberek administration does not have to complete the entire review before releasing information; it can release the information as it is reviewed. The Day urges Mr. Haberek to do so.

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