Cuomo kept hiring of new head of Open Government Committee on the down-low
Jan 16, 2020 1:00 pm
Chris Bragg is reporting for the Times Union when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office announced the hiring of Shoshanah Bewlay as the executive director at the Committee on Open Government last week, it came as news to many of the committee's 11 commissioners. The administration had ordered that Bewlay’s hiring remain undisclosed until immediately before a press release was issued on January 6. One of the members, Peter Grimm, the minority leader of the Rensselaer County Legislature and a Cuomo appointee, had no idea Bewlay had been hired until he read about it in the newspaper. Bewlay has served for four years in the Cuomo administration as general counsel at the state Office of Information Technology Services. In that role, she oversaw agency responses to open records requests, and routinely wrote opinions in favor of delaying and denying Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL requests. Bragg reports that Bewlay ruled against the Times Union in 10 of out 10 decisions she issued last year to the newspaper. The Committee on Open Government is an office within the Department of State. In the past, its staff attorneys focused on writing legal opinions about whether state agencies are justified in their decisions concerning FOIL requests. The committee also provides guidance and opinions on other open-government matters, including the Open Meetings Law. Following the departure of the committee's now scandal-plagued former executive director, Robert J. Freeman, government-reform groups pushed for a replacement that would be seen as independent from the state's political structure. Instead, Cuomo chose someone who, for the most part, has worked for him. In a statement Bewlay said she takes “very seriously the role this office has in promoting an open and transparent government for the people of New York.” Bewlay declined to be interviewed by Bragg or to answer written questions about her previous work. She also declined to provide copies of her past legal decisions. Read the full story in the Daily Freeman or the Times Union.