Jay Hardison, a member of the Representative Town Meeting and a frequent critic of some school administrators and members of the Board of Education, has been arrested by town police on an arcane charge involving dissemination of a confidential state Department of Children and Families report.
Darien police announced Wednesday afternoon that Hardison had sent out an email with the DCF report as an attachment.
Hardison apparently was not an employee of either the school district or state who would have had access to the report as part of his position. But once he had a copy of the report, according to police, showing it to others is a violation of state law.
For years, Hardison has sent emails to many town officials, news organizations covering the town and others with information partly from Freedom of Information Act requests. In the emails, Hardison typically accuses school officials and frequently members of the Board of Education of various improprieties and even violations of state education laws.
Police were told about Hardison’s alleged disclosure of the report on July 30 and opened an investigation. They received approval for an arrest warrant from a prosecutor and a judge, then informed Hardison when they received it.
At 6 p.m., Tuesday, Hardison, 57, went to Police Headquarters to turn himself in and was arrested. He was released on a promise to appear Oct. 8 in state Superior Court in Stamford.
In the police announcement on Wednesday, police provided some information on the law, a rare restriction on First Amendment freedom of speech rights:
Per Connecticut General Statute 17a-28; Confidentiality and Access to Records, D.C.F. reports are confidential documents that contain personal information about reporting parties, victims, suspects, juveniles, etc., and dissemination is restricted.
Per C.G.S. 17a-28 records of this type can only be released to a defined group of parties. Investigation revealed that Hardison sent the email to recipients that were not part of the statutorily defined group.
When the Department of Children and Families was informed of what had transpired, investigators were advised that the manner in which Hardison disseminated the report was prohibited by law.
According to the language of Connecticut General Statutes 17a-28(b):
“Any unauthorized disclosure shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
Hardison, who has been a resident of Nearwater Lane, told police his address is on Canal Drive in Wilson, North Carolina. Hardison is still listed on the town website as a Representative Town Meeting member representing District 4. His house in Darien doesn’t appear to be for sale.