Ken Dow, the attorney for Ghent residents Michael Schrom and Kevin Delahanty, provided details this afternoon of a lawsuit filed against Columbia County for failing to respond to requests for public records about the airport. Dow’s press release appears below; the full petition and affidavits can be downloaded here and here.
Ghent, October 7, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
GHENT RESIDENTS FILE ARTICLE 78 FOIL LAWSUIT AGAINST COLUMBIA COUNTY
Two Ghent residents commenced on Friday an Article 78 lawsuit against Columbia County, in connection with the County’s failure to disclose public records related to the County Airport and proposed plans to acquire, by purchase or eminent domain, lands abutting the Airport.
Michael Schrom and Kevin Delahanty, both of Ghent, filed a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request on August 21. Now, well into October, the County has not produced a single record or document in response. Their attorney, Ken Dow, said “the public has a clear legal right to know the information in the requested documents. This FOIL request was filed forty-seven days ago, and the County has produced no documents in response.”
Dow continued, saying “The failure to produce records for this FOIL request is just the tip of the iceberg. The County has been receiving other FOIL requests for very similar Airport- related information since at least February. The County has been under a state-mandated legal obligation to identify and produce Airport records since that time, and has disclosed almost nothing. For well over half a year, the County has blatantly and brazenly ignored clear state law in keeping this important information out of the hands of the public.”
Recently, elected officials have publicly complained that the people controlling these important records won’t even provide them to elected County supervisors. Many of the records sought in this Article 78 lawsuit are publicly referred to by County Commissioner of Economic Development Ken Flood and other officers or employees. Dow points out that “the County acknowledges that eminent domain proceedings are in the works. Yet when citizens ask, the County cannot seem to find any records that document any basis for taking such an action. We believe that can only be the result of willful evasion or stonewalling.”
The highest Court in New York, the Court of Appeals, says the FOIL law exists “to promote the people's right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations.” The County’s unlawful conduct has stood in direct opposition to this fundamental right of its residents.
Dow said “it is regrettable when citizens must commence proceedings in the Courts to extract lawful conduct from their governmental officials, but the long and troubling history of the County’s failure to produce and provide information has brought this on.”
Contact: Ken Dow
Attorney for Michael Schrom and Kevin Delahanty, Petitioners