The dispute between Erie County and the Department of Justice over alleged unacceptable conditions in county jails has now entered the contest for sheriff.
John A. Glascott, the Cheektowaga police captain who is the Democratic candidate for sheriff, said during a Saturday news conference in front of the Sheriff's Office that the county's refusal to process in a timely manner his Freedom of Information Law requests about the situation amounts to "politicization" of the issue.
"Stories about abuses and mismanagement in the Erie County Jail and Holding Center are, unfortunately, widespread," he said. "When I submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to view lawsuits filed against the county stemming from mismanagement in these facilities, I was told to pay thousands of dollars and wait until the day after Election Day before I could get a response."
Glascott asked County Attorney Cheryl A. Green on Sept. 4 for the information and was sent a bill for almost $2,500 to cover the costs of employee time to process the request. He said her reply also indicated the information would not be available until Nov. 4 at the earliest -- the day after the Nov. 3 election.
Glascott is challenging incumbent Republican Timothy M. Howard for the post.
"So many roadblocks to what should have been a relatively simple request make me wonder what County Attorney Green or Sheriff Tim Howard want to keep hidden from the people," Glascott said. "Have there been so many lawsuits against the jail and Holding Center that it would truly require 60 days just to find all of them? And almost $2,500 to photocopy information that is a matter of public record?"
Glascott has requested an investigation of the situation by the state's Committee on Open Government. He also noted that Howard's re-election campaign submitted a Freedom of Information request and received a prompt reply at no charge.
"Erie County should be working with the people who are looking for accountability from their government instead of offering nothing but a lengthy delay and outrageous fees," he said.
Grant Loomis, spokesman for County Executive Chris Collins, said the administration stands by Green.
"Given the depth and volume of Mr. Glascott's request, the response from the county attorney's office is in total compliance with the Freedom of Information Law," he said.