According to the New York State Committee on Open Government (COOG), the information requested from the Towns of Ridgeway and Shelby under the Freedom of Information Law should all be made available.
“FOIL pertains to all government records,” said Bob Freeman, executive director of the COOG. “If I go home and use my private computer to send an email about public business, that information is available under FOIL.”
Freeman continued, “FOIL defines records to mean any information in any physical form whatsoever kept, held, filed, produced, or reproduced by, with, or for a government agency. If a town board member is sitting at his home PC and transmits or receives email in relation to that person’s government job, the email communication is in the coverage of FOIL.”
On Wednesday, a report was published about the towns retaining an attorney to handle the Journal-Register’s FOIL request. Freeman said typically a town clerk serves as the records officer, but it is not unheard of to have a third party act in such a capacity.
However, Freeman did ask when the attorney was retained.
“There should be something out there to show how much the municipalities are paying for that particular service,” Freeman explained. “Presumably, if action was taken by a municipal board, it could only have been taken validly at a meeting, and there must be minutes to show that action was taken.”
In the minutes posted online for Ridgeway dating back to January, the attorney for the towns, Emilio Colaiacovo, is not mentioned by name. Minutes from May in Ridgeway were not posted yet. In Shelby, at its most recent meeting on May 13, a resolution was passed “to retain the legal services of Bouvier Partnership to act as special counsel regarding matters deemed necessary and appropriate by the town board.” Colaiacovo is a partner in that firm.