Finance board deletes member addresses from town web listing
FAIRFIELD — In this digital age, just how accessible should elected officials be?
Board of Finance members recently removed their addresses from the town’s website, and according the board’s chairman, did so on the recommendation of the police chief.
The Board of Education member listing does not include street addresses, but does give a Fairfield public schools email address for each member. The majority of the Representative Town Meeting members provide an address, although address information is missing for four individuals.
Finance board Chairman Tom Flynn raised this issue when candidates were asked for biographical information, and said the recommendation came in light of “recent incidents.” Police Chief Gary MacNamara said “We discussed that that would b ne an option, but that is up to the individual boards and commissions.”
There is no Freedom of Information Act language requiring addresses be published, according to Thomas Hennick, public education officer for the FOI Commission.
The way elected officials are listed on the website became an issue after a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission received a letter from an incarcerated man in Ohio. The board member did not know the prisoner, and, according to Deputy Chief Chris Lyddy, while disturbing, the letter did not contain anything that rose to the level of a threat.
However, in light of that, Lyddy said the department suggested appointed, non-elected members of the parks board “limit their footprint” on the internet. “We never came out with a global policy,” he said. Lyddy noted that a simple Google search will often provide anyone looking for it with an address.
“When initially this letter came from out of state, I think it raised a lot of concerns,” MacNamara said, leading to discussions about information officials provide on the internet.
Lyddy said there really has not been an issue with board members — elected or appointed — receiving threats from members of the public. He said there are three or four people in town who regularly have made their displeasure with various officials known, but they have never made any threats. “That occurs pretty regularly,” he said, as do instances of people coming into town offices, like the Assessor or Tax Collector and being very vocal, and sometimes profane, in their opinions.
Unfortunately, Lyddy said, that “kind of goes with the territory.”
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Steve Sheinberg said he doesn’t think elected officials should list their home addresses on the town’s website. “They can be contacted by email or phone,” Sheinberg said.
His Republican counterpart, James Millington, said if someone wants to find out a home address, all they need to do is Google them.
“Today, people rarely send letters,” Millington said. “If not an address, I do think there should be an email or phone number listed so people have a means of contacting their elected officials.”