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Germantown fire company bars public

Feb 12, 2015 12:04 am
[caption width="709" align="alignright"] From the volunteer fire company's website.[/caption]Debby Mayer in The Columbia Paper reports that the public was not allowed to attend a Germantown fire company town meeting. President Dale Hinkein told a reporter for The Columbia Paper -- a member of the public -- that the "press" would not be allowed to attend the Germantown Hose Company No. 1's meeting Tue., Feb. 3. Hinkein claims the company itself does not receive public funds, that financial support and equipment come through the Board of Fire Commissioners. The fire company, he said was “a club” and therefore does not have to abide by the Open Meetings Law. In a 2004 written advisory opinion, Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, wrote that “a volunteer fire company at its meetings conducts public business and performs a governmental function… carried out for a public corporation, which is defined to include a municipality, such as a town….” In Westchester Rockland Newspapers v. Kimball, in 1980, a case about the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, found that a volunteer fire company is an “agency” that falls within the provision of the FOIL. Hinkein said that firefighters were unhappy with, "a January 8 report in The Columbia Paper that included the company’s fund balance ($40,000) and post-meeting supper (spaghetti)." The Register-Star and The Daily Freeman -- which both cover the town -- have no online record of writing about the Germantown volunteer fire department. (Note: Not only are "press" members of the public, but all members of the public may report for WGXC or any other media entity, or themselves.) Read the full story in The Columbia Paper.
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