Ray Dalio took to Twitter over the weekend, doubling down on his stance that the Partnership for Connecticut ended because of a “dysfunction and damage that is coming from politicians and the media.”
But what was this “example of dysfunction” that caused Dalio and his wife, Barbara, to back out of their arrangement with the state on education funding? They objected to transparency, forced through leaks to the media because the Dalios insisted on a Freedom of Information exemption in exchange for $100 million.
This is the latest in an alarming trend of business leaders who demand secrecy while wading into public affairs. Worse yet, Gov. Ned Lamont sees no problem granting these requests.
When the Dalios demanded the state also contribute $100 million to the Partnership — an organization created by the state and featuring five elected officials — they should have accepted the FOI requirements that come with receiving taxpayer funds.
The same goes for the business and public health experts on Lamont’s reopening task force who influence the state’s plan to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, faced with questions about a lack of transparency, Lamont dissolved the task force and hired a consultant for $2 million.
This is not a new problem. Many quasi public agencies, created to be more business-like that traditional governmental agencies, have thumbed their nose at FOI laws. Those problems predate Lamont’s administration.
But now we have a governor looking to increase public-private partnerships. We also need a governor willing to insist the public’s right to know continues.
It’s not enough that the final decisions will be made public — taxpayers and constituents deserve access at every step.
This is why former Gov. Ella T. Grasso made the FOI Act a key piece of her campaign and delivered on that promise in 1975.
Several Democrats and Republicans have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in these partnerships. Let’s hope Lamont soon realizes that transparency in all facets of government is a cornerstone to a strong democracy.
Mike Savino is president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information. He is also a reporter with WFSB.