Over the past several months, Concerned Citizens for Honest & Open Government has submitted many Freedom of Information Requests (FOIL) in an effort to let the "light" shine. It is interesting to note who readily complies and who drags their heels almost in an attempt to discourage requests from the public.
Two of the worst offenders are--you guessed it--the Town of New Hartford and the New Hartford Central School. It seems to be next to impossible to obtain public information even with a Freedom of Information request.
You may know that two of our members, Ed Wiatr & Peter Bianco, are currently running for the two open seats on the New Hartford School Board. In an effort to get factual information to address the various groups our candidates were scheduled to speak to, a Freedom of Information request was submitted to Mr. Dan Gilligan, Superintendent of Schools. The reply back was that the information would be made available on May 16, 2007. Gee, isn't that one day after the Budget Vote? Mind you, the request was sent by FAX to Mr. Gilligan on April 5, 2007. Almost a month and a half to make the information available? This is an example of the FAILURE by School District Officials to timely release requested information, thus not allowing the school district residents an opportunity to better understand what the 2007/2008 School Budget contains.
Additionally, under a separate request Robert Nole, New Hartford School Business Administrator was asked for detailed line items supporting the summary income and expenditure accounts. This information has yet to be received.
Next, let's take the requests sent to the Town of New Hartford for the 2007 Tentative Assessment cd so that we could make current assessment information available to residents who wish to grieve their assessment. Last year it took us over 3 months to get the 2006 Final Roll.
We submitted the request for the 2007 assessment database on May 2, 2007 and one week later, we still don't have an acknowledgement of it being received. By the way, we submitted the request in person so we know they got it. UPDATE: The Town Clerk said she can't find our request. That sort of explains why we usually make the trip over to her office to deliver our request in person instead of using email and we get our requests timestamped. Lost Freedom of Information requests seem to be getting to be a habit.
Or how about the 2006 Town of New Hartford Audited Financial Statement. First, we were told that we would have the audited financials on March 30, 2007--one day after the bond vote. When that day came and went we were told that we would have to resubmit another Freedom of Information Request at a later date. It seems that the auditors received an extension for the completion of the 2006 financials and they won't be available until sometime in June or July. Wow, June or July--that is almost time to start the 2008 budget, isn't it?
Let's contrast this apparent reluctance to release information to the public with our FOIL request we submitted to the Town of Frankfort--requested information received within a week. Our request to the Oneida County Soil & Water--requested information received the same week. Our request to The Dept. of Environmental Conservation in Watertown--requested information received within a couple of weeks.
It does make one wonder! Transparency in government. Vote for Ed Wiatr & Peter Bianco for New Hartford School Board!