As Westport panels meet on deer control, area group faulted for FOI violations
Updated 6:24 am, Tuesday, June 28, 2011
In the latest skirmish over local deer control policy, a Fairfield County citizens group has publicly criticized a regional deer management organization, which includes a Westport representative, for violating state Freedom of Information regulations.
Documents obtained by the Westport News from the state Freedom of Information Commission show the agency ruled last month that the Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance violated a state statute by not filing the notice of an October 2010 meeting with all of the town clerks of the alliance's member municipalities. In addition, the commission ruled the alliance also violated the same statute by not making the minutes of March 2010 and May 2010 meetings available to the public within seven days of those meetings. The FOI Commission documents do not indicate that any civil penalties were imposed on the alliance for the violations.
The FOI Commission's rulings came in response to complaints filed against the alliance last year by Michael Gorfinkle, co-founder of Connecticut No Arrows or Bullets (CT-NAB), a Ridgefield-based group that advocates for "non-lethal" methods for managing local deer populations.
"The alliance's modus operandi was to avoid being completely factual and transparent as it conducted the people's business," Gorfinkle said in a statement.
In an e-mail sent Monday to the Westport News, David Streit, chairman and the Redding representative to the Deer Management Alliance, denied Gorfinkle's claims.
"All requested information was delivered to Mr. Gorfinkle via certified mail in a timely fashion," he said. "In reality, this is just another case of the misuse of a government agency at the expense of taxpayers to assure that the residents of Fairfield County continue to needlessly suffer from high deer densities and the resulting tick-related diseases."
The Fairfield County Deer Management Alliance is a regional agency that includes town government representatives from Westport and other Fairfield County municipalities such as Greenwich, Norwalk and New Canaan. Its website says the organization's purpose is to "foster a collaborative approach to managing the region's abundant deer population and its impact on ecological integrity, public health and safety."
Westport's representative to the alliance, Conservation Department Compliance Officer Colin Kelly, did not respond by press time to an e-mail request for comment on the CT-NAB statement.
The clash between the Deer Management Alliance and CT-NAB came to light as three Westport Representative Town Meeting committees prepare to convene Wednesday in a public meeting at Town Hall to continue their review of the town's deer control policy. The RTM's hearings on deer management began last September in response to a citizens' petition that called on the town to draft a new plan to manage the size of the local deer herd.
Westport has had a townwide hunting ban since 1971. A special act was passed by the state General Assembly in 1933, which granted the town authority to regulate hunting within its borders. No other municipality in Connecticut has this power.
The RTM Health and Human Services, Public Protection and Environment committees' joint meeting on deer control will begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Town Hall auditorium.