Wielding FOI Act, columnist Collins made his mark
Jan. 21—For David Collins, The Day's columnist, 2022 was a typically impactful year.
He weighed in on the Connecticut Port Authority's role in transforming State Pier in New London, a candidate's exclusion from an election-season debate and plans to locate a data center in Groton, raze a historic Mystic home and convert the former Mystic Oral School.
Collins' incisive takes on these and other issues earned him abundant feedback from readers and accolades from nonprofit watchdog agencies. Both the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information and the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government feted him.
In October, the council presented Collins with The Stephen A. Collins Memorial Freedom of Information Award. Tom Scheffey, the council's vice president, noted columns written by Collins ― the recipient of the award, not its namesake (the two are unrelated) ― had spurred two FBI investigations and as many grand jury probes.
"He's been up against battalions of expert attorneys and courageously gotten the word out ― a journalist who has fought the good fight," Scheffey said.
Barely a month later, the open-government foundation presented Collins; former state Comptroller Kevin Lembo; Tom Hennick, the state Freedom of Information Commission's public information officer; and Yale Law School's Media Freedom & Information Access Clinic with its inaugural Mitchell W. Pearlman Freedom of Information Awards.
"Any one of the nominees would have been deserving," William Fish, CFOG's president and a member of The Day's board of directors, said at the time. "Our four winners, however, stood out for their many years of dedication to government transparency, for promoting open and accountable government and their use of the state Freedom of Information Act to inform the public of matters of extreme importance."
Collins joined The Day in 1979 upon graduating from Connecticut College. After covering a number of news beats, he became city editor and later a features writer. Since 2008, he's been writing three columns a week.
As CFOG noted, Collins produced a "relentless series of columns revealing ethical breaches, cost overruns and a lack of transparency at the Connecticut Port Authority, a key agency shaping the economic and environmental future of New London County."
Collins broke the news that activist Kevin Blacker, a staunch critic of the State Pier project, had been negotiating to carry the Green Party's banner in November's congressional election. When Connecticut Public Television and the League of Women Voters of Connecticut ruled Blacker was ineligible to participate in a 2nd District candidates' debate because he hadn't met a fundraising threshold, Collins cried foul.
His columns gave voice to Groton residents opposed to a proposed data center and helped save a historic waterfront cottage cleared for demolition. And he took on Gov. Ned Lamont's plan to turn over the Mystic Oral School property to a developer with a shady past.
It never happened.