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Friday, February 8, 2008

Freedom of Information Push

This might seem like journalistic inside baseball, but it's not. The state Freedom of Information Law applies to everyone. Anyone can file a FOIL request, seeking access to government documents, meeting minutes, etc. if it is not forthcoming from the public agency in question. The state Committee on Open Government, created by the FOIL, reports that its Web site is experiencing a incredible surge in traffic and is calling on the state legislature to strengthen the law with the following provisions:

* Authorize courts to invalidate actions by boards when it is proven that the actions occurred in secret and in violation of Open Meetings Law.

* Require award of attorney's fees when it is proven in court that votes happened illegally.

* Require that government meeting notices be listed online.

* Require that more records be posted online.

The second one is particularly critical because when agencies illegally reject requests or stonewall, the burden is on the person requesting the information to come up with the money to hire a lawyer.

An Assembly committee should be hearing the Committee on Open Government's recommendations soon.

Thanks to Liz Benjamin at the Daily News for the heads up.


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