Newtown clerk asks for town help to shield death certificates from press

The Newtown Bee | Digital Journal | Hartford Courant

Newtown Town Clerk Debbie Aurelia wrote a letter to town residents asking them to support state legislation that would limit press access to death and marriage certificates. "I feel it’s my responsibility to protect these victims. They’ve been through enough,” Aurelia wrote in the letter, John Voket reports in The Newtown Bee. She supports making index information about such vital records available but shielding the records themselves.

She said that for state statistical records, as well as legal or probate officials, access to that level of detail is important. But for the media and others including conspiracy theorists following the events of 12/14, she questions the logic behind permitting access to such detail.

Ms Aurelia said she has received requests for death certificates and other proprietary information from the New York Post, the Connecticut Post, the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant among others.

Conn. State Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, who represents Newtown, is a cosponsor of the bill, which is before a "Democratic-controlled public health committee," writes Hartford Courant reporter Christopher Keating. Bolinsky said he felt "the outrage, the pain of observing the jackals descend upon my town clerk’s office at a time of great, great community loss," Keating reports.

State Rep. Dan Carter, who represents another part of Newtown, has sponsored a separate bill that would shield childrens' death certificates for 10 years, Keating writes. Jim Smith of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information tells the Courant his group will fight the legislation:

"There isn’t anything in a death certificate that is going to hurt the deceased," Smith said Wednesday at the state Capitol complex. “It’s not like an autopsy report. It’s been public for centuries. It’s not going to invade anyone’s privacy."

Connecticut's legislature has another public-records bill before it, one that would open gun records to public view. Following a New York newspaper's publication of a map of local permit-holders, many states have moved to make gun records private, including New York, Arkansas, Maine and Virginia.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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