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Friday, September 25, 2009

Call the FOIL Cops!

Last night's Town Board Meeting had one item on its agenda which was to set a Special Meeting to deliver the budget on October 2nd at 5PM. Its always better to deliver bad news on a Friday so this should come as no surprise.

What was a surprise was the Supervisor and the Town Clerks separate exchanges with Democratic Committee member CB Smith who has been attempting for months to get some basic information under the Freedom of Information Law. (FOIL).

First, the Supervisor was asked when he would deliver the overtime information from a FOIL issued months ago that sought the overtime budgeted and expended in 3 town hall departments, for two years, Clerk, Building and Comptroller. (That's a whopping 12 numbers) The Supervisor has been bragging for months that he's got overtime under control because he now personally authorizes it. But last night he stated the reason the numbers were not provided was because he can't "generate" a report with overtime by Department. Now there's a manager with a real grip on his job! No wonder we have a two year projected deficit of $149,000!

CB responded with a characteristic quip asking Evers, "So you want me to run an ad stating that you can't provide Departmental Overtime because no one can give you a report that even tells you what it is?" Evers was speechless for it had sunk in that not disclosing the information was perhaps more devastating than providing the numbers. Smith warned him that a lawsuit would force him to disclose the numbers and Evers said go for it.

Stay tuned for this one and get ready for part two of that lawsuit. Town Clerk Connolly made a comment from the sideline. No one seemed to hear it, but Smith turned and asked her when she would be providing her "Certification" that a single page of minutes to the infamous June 2, 2009 Comprehensive Plan Meeting was a "true copy".

Some background, Smith sought the minutes on June 3rd, one day after attending the meeting in which 4 members of the Comprehensive Plan Committee and the consultant were present. Yes, GOP Town Board candidate Kelly Hoffman was one!

With no quorum present and no one taking minutes, the meeting seemed a perfect example of a working violation of the State's Open Meeting Law requiring attendance, the presence of a quorum and minutes taken with a record of the vote for any action to be taken. Lots of action took place at the meeting, all rescinded after they were embarrassed at a town board meeting, but no one was taking minutes.

It's no wonder the Clerk could not get the Committee members to giver her the minutes. There simply were none taken. But having to acknowledge this under FOIL would be a major embarrassment to the credibility of the Committee and its Chairman Al Spain, a Connolly supporter. Hence after months of delays, the above "magic minutes" were provided to Smith by Connolly as the official minutes.By themselves they are an embarrassment to the committee and a complete violation of the Open Meetings Law. But here's where Connolly gets herself into trouble.

The FOIL law has a provision which requires the FOIL officer, Connolly, to "Certify" any record she provides as a "True Copy". In other words it isn't fake or fabricated to protect somebody's ass.(Pardon our French, we don't usually show emotion here.)

Here is what Mr. Robert Freeman writes regarding the Town Clerk's duty as a FOIL officer:
Further, §1401.2(b) of the regulations describes the duties of a records access officer and states in relevant part that:
"The records access Officer is responsible for assuring that agency personnel...
(5) Upon request, certify that a record is a true copy..."
Pursuant to §1401.2(b)(5) and to implement §89(3) concerning an agency's duty to provide certification, the records access officer has the duty of ensuring that agency personnel certify that copies of records are true copies.
You may recall that at the last town board meeting the town clerk, who boasts 18 years of experience, insisted when asked to certify these same minutes, that she had "never heard of a town clerk having to certify records, only a county clerk". Well you learn something new every day, don't you.

So here's the rub of the meeting. Smith asked Connolly if she had finished the one sentence needed to certify the minutes as a true copy. She responded "not yet". Smith asked how long it takes to write a single sentence to satisfy a foil request and Connolly whipped out her trusty cell phone and said, "I'm calling the police"! Yep, the FOIL COPS, we got 'em all right. Ready to swoop into town hall on a moments notice to save the town clerk from having to do her job.

When asked what are you going to tell them, Connolly responded "that you're harassing me". If Smith had the number handy, he would surely have dialed it for her. They'd have needed a butterfly net instead of handcuffs!

So there's your Clerk and Supervisor in action. One hiding his overtime and the other fabricating documents to protect the incompetence of a town committee working hard to turn the town's Comprehensive Plan over to the development community.

Be sure to read the Advertiser this week. It will give you a lot to think about.

1 comment:

Interested Party said...

NG Police #: 283-5323.

I remember some time ago a resident complained about the quality and content of the meeting recordings and stated that per NYS Town law the Clerk's main responsibility is to record "...complete and accurate meeting minutes..."- so far in her 18 years our esteemed Clerk has yet to accomplish this.

Liberty in November.