Brian Pugh on Open Government

To The Editor:

At last week’s Village Board meeting, Mayor Greg Schmidt endorsed the idea of publishing all Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the Village on-line. I strongly endorse this move towards “active disclosure,” the practice of making information readily available, to the extent legally and technically feasible, a policy for which I have previously advocated in these pages.

New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law §87) allows members of the public to access records of governmental agencies, including municipal government. FOIL provides a process for the review and copying of an agency’s records.

“Active disclosure” is not a new concept. The federal government has embraced it, in theory at least, for some time.

Today, some federal agencies have adopted the practice of posting documents online at the same time they are sent to the requesting citizen—commonly known as “Release to One, Release to All.”

I hope that the Village will soon adopt a policy of “Release to One, Release to All.” In addition, I support the Village posting all FOIL requests and their final disposition (approved, denied, appealed, etc.), so that members of the public can see what’s being requested, who is requesting and which requests are being granted.

On March 11, Roseanne Schuyler, Chairwoman of the Croton United Party, wrote a letter to The Gazette (in response to an earlier of a letter of my own endorsing active disclosure) to “support the enactment of a local law that would require every future administration—regardless of political majority—to make proactive disclosure of public documents the standard practice of this village.”

I remain very much in favor of such proactive disclosure, yet I have yet to see a draft local law on this issue. Hopefully, CUP Chairwoman Schuyler can prevail upon her governing Croton United Party majority on the Village Board to make this a priority now that the Village budget has been adopted.


Brian Pugh

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