Supervisor erred on transparency policy
Over the course of more than 30 years, I’ve submitted Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] requests without ever having a problem–until now, under Supervisor Kelly Myers’s administration.
More than five years ago, the Committee on Open Government changed the law to allow citizens to request FOILs via email. Since that time, five years ago, I presented all such requests in that manner. Indeed, all email requests that I have sent to the town clerk, Lisa Stanley, during that period have consistently been respectfully accepted and honored.
On Dec. 9, 2012, as a follow up to the Kelly Myers’s Safety Net snafu, I sent a FOIL request via email to request the following:
“Any/all documents, letters, memos, correspondence, press releases relating to the ‘Safetynet’ that have been sent to the Town of Saugerties by Ulster County or State of New York between January 1, 2012 to date, including but not limited to, the cost to the Town of Saugerties for the years 2012 and 2013; date payments were due, dates payments were made to the county. In addition any/all documents, letters, memos, press releases, bills, related to monies owed to the Ulster County Board of Elections for the years 2011 and 2012, including but not limited to, cost to the Town of Saugerties for the years 2011 and 2012; date payments are due, and dates payments were made.”
Except as it may relate to specific recipients’ names, all the items requested are public record and relate to budget issues. My request was accepted and acknowledged by the town clerk and I was advised that I would be contacted when the information becomes available. Then, on Dec. 17, 2012, I received the following e-mail from Kelly Myers:
“Dear Mr. Heidcamp,
I am in receipt of your records request. Please be advised the Town requires a FOIL form to be filled out for FOIL requests.
FOIL request forms may be obtained from the Town Clerk’s office.
Having read your request, please know that much of the information you requested is not available to the public due to confidentiality concerns.”
With respect to Myers’s last comment regarding “confidentiality concerns,” I have to ask, “Since when is information relating to budget issues confidential?”
Having personal knowledge of Open Government laws concerning FOIL requests, I knew that Myers was incorrect. Subsequently, the town clerk (Lisa Stanley) sent an email to the supervisor (Myers), all town board members and me, stating that “Yes, you can absolutely ‘FOIL’ via email.” In addition, I contacted Robert Freeman (NYS Committee on Open Government), also via email, for his opinion—he agreed that the law allows citizens to request FOILs via email and he sent Myers a copy of his opinion, saying: “To enhance knowledge of and compliance with law, a copy of this response is being sent to the Town Supervisor.”
As a result of Robert Freeman’s opinion and the town clerk’s opinion, the town clerk has informed me that Kelly Myers is preparing the documents requested.
Once again, as CEO of the town of Saugerties, Kelly Myers has demonstrated that she lacks experience and knowledge in the Open Government laws. And once again I wonder, incompetence or ignorance? And, again, you be the judge!
What is happening with fracking in NY? Governor Cuomo and his DEC are preparing to frack. Their “regulations” are a joke and basically a gift to the industry. Fracking is another nail in the coffin which will destroy the ecosystem which sustains life.
Public opposition? Municipal bans? Not enough.
Cuomo recently warned, “First, we must get some state legislation in place.”
Give up? No. We are still a country of laws. We, not they, must make the laws.
New Yorkers have written a state law which will make Fracking a Class C felony in NY. We call it N.Y. Public Law #1 (read it atfrackbustersny.org).
Are we kidding? Definitely Not. Crimes are being committed. Fracking has brought ecocide and homicide to every state it has colonized. We now ask our local anti-frack town governments to go on record in support of New York Public Law No. 1, a New York state law to criminalize fracking — the only legal path to save the beautiful land, water, and air that sustains our lives.