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HomeNewsProtecting Members and their Families from Harassment

Protecting Members and their Families from Harassment

Thanks to the advocacy of AFT Connecticut-affiliated union members, lawmakers have passed legislation in the past shielding state employees from abusive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. This year, we’ve renewed efforts to extend the same protections to legal professionals in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). In a recently published op-ed, Joan Andrews (in screenshot, above), the president of our Association of Connecticut Assistant Attorneys General (ACAAG), urged legislators embrace a proposal to address a critical “matter of workplace safety:”

For the fifth year, my colleagues and I are supporting a legislative proposal to extend existing safeguards to Connecticut’s Assistant Attorneys General and our families.

There is a real need for the protections provided under House Bill (HB) 5447, An Act Exempting the Residential Addresses of Certain Employees From Disclosure Under the Freedom Of Information Act. We appreciate the lawmakers on the General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee for recognizing the risk we face and introducing this bill again in 2024.

Click here to watch Andrews deliver testimony in support of the legislation.

For us, the issue is not academic; it is a matter of workplace safety.

Members of our union who work in the Office of the Attorney General have been subjected to threats, harassment and stalking at our homes for simply doing our jobs. Many of the state employees we work alongside have not faced the same degree of intimidation because the current law exempts their residential addresses from disclosure under FOIA.

Click here for photos from the signing ceremony of the 2014 law shielding Judicial Branch professionals’ residential information.

AAGs are Connecticut’s civil lawyers and represent state agencies as well as public officials and employees. We do important work recovering money for taxpayers, defending against frivolous lawsuits as well as settling meritorious ones, protecting children and defending our environment. Not all those interactions are positive. That makes it imperative to protect the residential addresses of the legal professionals within the OAG so that our vital work can be performed without fear of intimidation.

Within the past year, an inmate who threatened an AAG – as well as a prosecutor and a judge – has been charged, convicted and now awaits sentencing. The courtroom record reveals the gravity of the individual’s alarming remarks:

“…justice will be served the day I get out…You’ll be the first one seeing me at your doorstep…you can’t hold me forever…I’m going to tell you to your face again…you wonder why people walk into courthouses and McDonalds and shoot people. Trust me. One way or another, my justice is going to get served…on my dead mother’s dead grave, I will get justice when this day is over. You can mark my words on that.”

Under the current law, the residential addresses of the judge and prosecutor are exempt from disclosure. The AAG representing the prosecutors does not have the same protection. They did, however, receive the same threat.

The same inconsistency applies to AAGs in our Child Protection Section. They represent the Department of Children and Families (DCF)’s employees, whose home addresses are shielded under the law. Several years ago, an AAG working in the section received a package without a postmark in her home mailbox from a litigant threatening her and her family’s physical safety. It included directions from the litigant’s home to the AAG’s, as well as directions to her son’s middle school. The AAG endured a year of intimidation, culminating in charges of two counts of harassment and one count of second degree threatening.

Once again, the home addresses of the DCF workers who removed the litigant’s children from her home were protected by the statute, but the AAG representing DCF in court was not.

Click here for reporting on the threats and harassment aimed at the AAG in this case.

Another AAG in the Child Support Unit received a written death threat at her home. The same individual made a death threat against their colleague, a Judicial Branch support enforcement officer, whose address was protected by the statute. While a court granted the AAG a permanent protective order against the defendant, for years they refused to open the door to their home. They even instructed their children to do likewise for fear of who would be on the other side.

Opponents to extending these protections claim their position is based on accountability. As AAGs, we sign each and every pleading publicly filed in court with our unique Juris number, as well as our work address, email, phone and fax numbers. We are fully accessible in our workplaces.

Click here for reporting on HB 5447 and additional legislation aimed at shielding higher education professionals from harassment.

There is simply no benefit to the public interest in granting access to our personal homes where we reside with our families, spouses, children and pets. On the contrary, such access only presents a danger and creates a workplace safety risk.

Lawmakers have previously determined that the Freedom of Information Act was not intended to facilitate providing residential home addresses to potentially dangerous individuals who wish to harm certain state employees. Assistant Attorneys General (AAG) deserve the same protection already afforded to the public safety, criminal justice, juvenile protection and legal professionals we work alongside and represent in court.

Click here for Andrews’ original published op-ed in CT Viewpoints.

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connorhttp://aftct.org
Communications Coordinator for AFT Connecticut, a labor federation of over 30,000 hard-working women and men in the Nutmeg State.
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