New York’s transparency problem

Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to manage “the most transparent” administration New Yorkers have ever seen.

The reality is that his administration continues to keep a tight lid on public records or takes months to respond to even the most basic requests for information. 

News 4 Investigates from May through August filed Freedom of Information law requests with every state agency listed on Cuomo’s “Open FOIL NY” portal. The portal, which Cuomo revealed to the public in June, makes it easier to file a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Most requests filed by News 4 Investigates asked for salary compensation data for all state employees, from each agency. We also filed separate requests unrelated to salary data with a nonprofit arm of Empire State Development Corporation and the New York State Department of Transportation.

Proponents of open records laws said that filing a request for information from the state government was never the problem.

“The real problem is getting the response,” said Paul Wolf, president of the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government.

“It shouldn’t take months, in some cases years, to get information.”

Indeed, News 4 Investigates waited months for documents.  In fact, state agencies only began to release data that WIVB requested after asking the governor’s office on Oct. 24 for comment on his administration’s refusal to release public records.

The governor’s office did not respond.

Our requests for documents from Empire State Development’s nonprofit arm and a few other agencies are still being processed.

A handful of state agencies took at least a month to decide that the New York State Office of General Services is the best agency to respond to WIVB’s requests. (Read more…)