The public’s “right to know” has become the public’s right to wait — and in some cases, getting information from government agencies is a process that can drag on for months without a reliable response.
New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) guarantees citizens access to government documents, but an amNewYork survey of the nearly four-decade-old law found city agencies failing to reply in a timely manner and even ignoring requests outright.
Unions, advocacy groups and journalists told amNewYork they’re frustrated by how time-consuming and challenging getting information can be under the Bloomberg administration.
The New York Times was so fed up that, in December, it sued the NYPD for what it called “a pattern and practice of violating FOIL.”
“The irony is that when Michael Bloomberg ran for mayor in 2001, he promised more transparency for the police department than existed under [former Mayor] Rudy Giuliani, who was notorious for refusing to provide information to the public,” said Leonard Levitt, author of “NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country’s Greatest Police Force.”
“Under [Police Commissioner] Ray Kelly, it is worse,” Levitt added.
Other groups say they’ve been stonewalled when asking for public records.
The public should be alarmed when information from the government is not easily accessible, said Kenneth Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition.
“As a taxpayer citizen of the state of New York, you’re simply asking for your own records. They don’t own it — you do,” Bunting said.
He added that New York’s FOIL should “have more teeth” to compel government agencies to abide by requests within a stated deadline.
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