Brian Pugh: Honor Sunshine Week By Enhancing Access to Public Records

brian-pugh-group-croppedTo the Editor:

As some readers may know, next week is “Sunshine Week”–Sunshine Week is a national initiative spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.

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.

However, we can do better. 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.”

“Release to One, Release to All” establishes many time- and cost-saving improvements to the Freedom of Information Law process. By allowing people to easily access information that has already been released in response to a request, the policy should help avoid FOIL backlogs, avoid duplicative requests and processing, and answer more requests.

In March of 2016, the Chair of Croton United, in response to my earlier statements in favor of “Release to One, Release to All”, wrote a letter to the Gazette calling for 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. I hope that Croton United’s Chair can prevail upon her governing majority on the Village Board to make this reform a priority.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

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