The New York State Committee on Open Government today issued an Advisory Opinion, disagreeing with a recent contention by Sheena Salvino of the Hudson Development Corporation that HDC is somehow exempt from the requirements of the State’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
A FOIL request was submitted by this writer a month ago regarding HDC’s controversial relationship with the Colarusso company. FOIL requires an agency not only to reply within 5 days, but to either decide on the request in that timeframe, or to give a reason why an additional 20 days are necessary.
When only a terse acknowledgement of the request was issued by Salvino, the law’s deadlines were brought to her attention. Salvino then refused to give any firm timeline for responding, adding that based on the advice of “legal council” [sic] she believes HDC “is not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law.” As such, she implied, any documents produced would be produced voluntarily, not as required by law. This would allow HDC to pick and choose what it produced, rather than having to follow the narrow limits of FOIL.
As of yesterday, Salvino indicated that she was assembling some documents for my review, but again did not provide a date or any acknowledgement that these would fully cover what was required in the law.
Today‘s State findings, dated May 18th, 2018, indicate that whatever “council” gave Salvino this advice was mistaken. NYS COOG Assistant Director Kristin O’Neill writes that “I believe that HDC constitutes an ‘agency’ required to give effect to FOIL,” adding that she would likewise expect “a court to conclude that HDC is an ‘agency’ subject to FOIL.”
An added wrinkle is that because HDC is an agency as defined in the law, this means that it is also subject to Open Meetings Law. Of late, HDC has appeared to treat making its meetings open to the public as something of a voluntary undertaking.
Note: HDC has yet to produce any documents, though it has exceeded the maximum 25 days to do so.