FOI: AllProfiles

COMMISSIONER PROFILES
 

 CURRENT COMMISSIONERS
 
     Owen P. Eagan
 
 
{Commissioner Owen P. Eagan}      Owen Eagan has always believed in public service. As a resident of West Hartford he has served on various boards and commissions: the town council, the planning and zoning commission, the public safety committee and the ethics commission to name a few.
 
     But when he was asked to fill a two-year vacancy on the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission, Eagan wasn’t sure he was the right fit.
 
     “I just wasn’t sure, but I believe very strongly in the importance of public service, so I felt that because I was asked, it was something I wanted to do. I figured it was only for two years,” Eagan said.
 
     That was in May of 2009. Now, more than four years later, Eagan is not only still a commission member, he was appointed commission chairman by Governor Dannel Malloy.
 
     “It didn’t take me very long to realize not only how important the commission’s work is, but also how much I really enjoyed it,” Eagan said. “What we do really runs the gamut, from a case involving an individual’s right to a case about water rights and the MDC to the First Five Initiative. One of my colleagues said that ‘all roads lead to FOI,’ and I believe she is right.”
 
     Eagan is a practicing attorney, a partner in the West Hartford firm of Eagan, Donahue, Van Dyke and Falsey LLP of West Hartford. He is a 1982 graduate of Wesleyan University and a 1985 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center.
 
     “I have truly enjoyed my time on the commission. My fellow commissioners and the commission staff have been great to work with and very helpful,” he said.
 
     And his feelings about his new leadership role on the commission?
 
     “Let me say that I truly feel honored to be asked to serve as chairman. I have no reservations about taking the position. I feel that I have been given great examples to follow in the two chairmen before me, Andy O’Keefe and Norma Riess.”
 
     Eagan says that his role as chairman will be to ensure that all parties receive fair and equitable treatment.
 
     “It’s important to recognize the importance of open and accessible government,” Eagan said. “But it also is important to have a certain amount of understanding of what it takes for a public agency to comply with some requests. Yes, the slant is to open government, but we have to be fair and act within the confines of the law.”
 

 FORMER COMMISSIONERS
 
 
 
{Long-time FOI Commissioner Sherman D. London}
     Commissioner Sherman D. London has been a member of the Freedom of Information Commission since 1996, having been appointed by Governor Rowland.  A graduate of Rider College in New Jersey, Commissioner London came to the commission after a distinguished journalism career, during which he reported on local politics, and the Connecticut General Assembly.  During the last 20 years of his journalism career, Commissioner London was the editor of both the Republican and the American newspapers in Waterbury.
 
     Since his appointment, Commissioner London has become known as a “work horse.”  Not only does he rarely miss a commission meeting, but he also presides as hearing officer over contested cases on a weekly basis.  He has quickly mastered the law and the procedures under which the commission operates, and is studious in preparation.  Even simple typographical errors rarely get by him.
 
     Of his 17 years with the commission, Commissioner London commented:  “Being a member of the commission has been the best post-retirement position any newspaper editor could have.  It has provided me with an opportunity to continue the never-ending fight to keep government open and transparent.”
 
     Commissioner London, who has the distinction of being the commission’s longest serving member, is highly respected by his colleagues and commission staff, all of whom thoroughly enjoy working with him.
 
 
 
 
{FOI Chairperson Norma E. Riess}
     Norma E. Riess has been a member of the Freedom of Information Commission since 1997, and has been its chairman since January of 2011. Long active in her community, Commissioner Riess has been a tireless participant in governmental access issues since joining the FOIC more than 15 years ago.
 
     A graduate of Adelphi University, Commissioner Riess previously worked at the Sperry Gyroscope Company and for the United States Air Force in France as a civilian testing specialist. She has been a member of the Women’s Guild of the First Congregational Church of Bethel for more than 30 years and has been active in state and local politics for almost as long.
 
     Commissioner Riess is well known for her candor and her sense of humor. She says that when she first was asked to serve on the FOI Commission by then Governor John Rowland, she was reluctant to accept. “I am not a lawyer and I told (Rowland) that,” Riess recalls. “But he told me he didn’t want to appoint only lawyers, that he wanted a balance.”
 
     Riess says that she agreed to join the commission, but initially was not confident in her ability to make meaningful contributions.  “I spent a lot of time listening at first, getting a feel for how some of the cases should go,” she says.  Then she began to find her comfort zone, she says, both as a commissioner and a hearing officer.  “There were a couple of times when a (well-known) lawyer thought he was going to bowl us over, but we were prepared and made the right ruling. That felt so good,” she says. “I can’t speak in legal terms and sometimes, I wish I could, but the more cases I did, the more comfortable I felt.”
 
     Riess says that she is a “reader” and always carefully reviews all cases before a commission meeting and all pertinent documents before she serves as an FOI hearing officer.
 
     Since becoming chairman in 2011, Riess had made a concerted effort to attend every meeting. For a variety of reasons, Riess has had to participate in some commission meetings via speakerphone, but says that as chairman she feels “much more responsible” to make the lengthy trek to Hartford to preside over the commission proceedings.  “It’s just not the same feeling on the phone. It’s not always easy to get here, but I really feel better if I can see and hear everything,” she says.
 
     Riess says that her days as an FOIC Commissioner have been rewarding and fulfilling.  “I like to think that I was able to stand up for the little guy,” she says. “Keeping government open and accessible for everyone is so important and I think I’ve had a hand in that.”
 




Content Last Modified on 7/8/2014 1:26:38 PM