nbc ct investigates

NBC CT Investigates Initially Denied Entry to CAA Public Meeting

NBC Connecticut

The week of March 13, 2023, journalists the world over have been celebrating Sunshine Week, promoting access to public information, and records.

Ironically, our NBC CT Investigates team ran into a surprising roadblock during Sunshine Week, that has raised transparency questions about a quasi-public agency that makes multi-million-dollar decisions about many of our state’s airports.

It requires effort for the public to attend a board of directors meeting for the Connecticut Airport Authority.

The meetings are held in the middle of the day at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks almost on the Massachusetts state line.

Once there, you must park, go inside the terminal, then take an elevator to the CAA’s third floor offices.

But when we got there at 1 p.m. for the CAA’s March 15 board meeting, we were not allowed inside.

The last time NBC CT Investigates attendend a CAA meeting in person was prior to the pandemic. In our visit on March 15, we found the CAA now has locked doors and a security guard outside its offices.

NBC CT Investigates showed up to see if the board was going to discuss two of several stories our team reported about a close call involving a passenger plane and an apparent lack of security in Bradley’s main parking garage.

The security guard told us to wait, and, alerted a CAA staffer.

She told us to wait further and left.

We accessed the meeting via Microsoft Teams on a phone for a quick moment, then heard someone on the Teams meeting say “NBC is outside.”

We then told the security guard a public meeting was in progress and we needed to be let in as soon as possible.

After about another five minutes, CAA Media Affairs let us in, and apologized, saying it was a miscommunication.

We missed a significant chunk of the executive director’s report, and we didn’t start recording until 13 minutes after the scheduled start of the meeting.

It turns out neither the story about the close call nor the parking garage were on the board's agenda that day.

The CAA said in a statement to us:

“The CAA acknowledges that NBC staff were inadvertently delayed in attending the latest CAA board meeting for several minutes due to a miscommunication amongst new staff members at the beginning of the meeting. As soon as other staff were made aware of the issue, NBC was immediately admitted to the meeting and apologies were made to the affected individuals. The Authority has already counseled the employees involved about the need to immediately grant access to all public meeting attendees in the future, and the organization has consistently demonstrated a track record of accommodating all interested parties in the past, including NBC employees, prior to this isolated incident. The Authority takes its transparency responsibilities very seriously, we express our regret for the delay, and corrective action was immediately taken to prevent recurrence.”

NBC Connecticut Investigates has filed a complaint with the state’s Freedom of Information Commission, asking it to look into this incident, to make sure the public has better access to CAA meetings going forward.

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