Freedom of Information Law is a powerful tool to demand accountability from government

We're quoting from the preamble of New York state's Freedom of Information Law. It requires governments to release records of their activities, with some exceptions, so that taxpayers know where their money is being spent and how their government is performing. FOIL is a powerful tool for demanding accountability.

Alas, saying "government is the public's business,'' and acting like it is, are two different things. Government agencies and officials routinely resist public disclosure. It takes persistence and the occasional lawsuit to pry public information out of their hands. Two recent examples we have faced show why FOIL is so necessary, and how far government (and the entities it does business with) will go to avoid disclosure under FOIL.

The first involves the State University of New York and its handling of revelations that Upstate Medical University President Dr. David Smith may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars of unauthorized compensation from two companies affiliated with Upstate. Smith resigned in early November, leaving many questions unanswered. Among them: Why didn't SUNY know about Smith's compensation arrangements (and potential self-dealing) until tipped off? Did his employment agreement permit such compensation? Was anyone else paying Smith on the side? Did anyone else at Upstate have similar pay arrangements? Continue>>>