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How to file a FOIL request in Windham

May 04, 2014 12:02 am
On April 25, Windham Town Supervisor Stacy Post told Daily Mail reporter Michael Ryan, according to his story in the paper, that she would no longer give out any written information, and that folks who want to know what the town is doing must now make a Freedom of Information Law request. Ryan writes, "The blanket thrown over the media in Windham is unprecedented," without providing any proof of that statement. He also wrote, "The sweeping dictate comes amid escalating tensions in local government following the March 21 execution of a search warrant by state police, who were authorized to search the town hall and Post’s residence. Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents seized a computer from Post’s desk at the municipal building." Greene County District Attorney Charles Bucca says there is, “an open investigation into potential criminal offenses.” In her campaign literature, Post stated, among other goals, that “I would like to have a Current and dynamic web page for the Town of Windham. One that will advise the public of scheduled board meetings and share with the public the minutes from the last meeting.... I wish to bring more transparency to our local government and stop handling things and making decisions behind closed doors.” Instead, the Windham town website still says Stephen Walker, the previous superintedent, is still in charge, and does not include anything about how to file a FOIL request. New York's Committee on Open Government has extensive information about filing FOIL requests, including sample letters, sample email requests, and details about the law. The FOIL process requires the submission of a written request to the town’s FOIL officer. The records or FOIL officer for the town must respond, “within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described,” according to the New York State Department of State Committee on Open Government. Towns “shall make such record(s) available to the person requesting it, deny such request in writing or furnish a written acknowledgment of the receipt of such request and a statement of the approximate date … when such request shall be granted or denied.... If circumstances prevent disclosure to the person requesting the record or records within twenty business days … the agency shall state, in writing, both the reason for the inability to grant the request within twenty business days and a date certain, within a reasonable period, depending on the circumstances, when the request will be granted in whole or in part,” according to the Committee on Open Government. “The town supervisor is not an emperor,” Committee on Open Government Executive Director Robert Freeman told The Daily Mail. “The town clerk, by law, is the custodian of all town records. If the town supervisor has a document in her hand, involving town business, it belongs to the town clerk.... If the town supervisor wants to take over records management and be the FOIL officer, let them run for town clerk.... The supervisor doesn’t make the rules. The town board makes the rules. The supervisor is one out of five. It is the duty of an elected official to express himself or herself,” Freeman said.
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