Too many governmental organizations fail to comply with the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), as reported by The Buffalo News.
As a former government official honestly and timely responding to FOIL requests, and as a private citizen twice bringing Article 78 suits against local, dishonest governments (including my former employer), I have seen first hand how dishonest governmental officials can get away with non-compliance with FOIL.
Bringing an Article 78, after government fails to respond because it is covering up wrong doing or embarrassments, is expensive, even if one represents oneself, as I did on one occasion. If New York State is truly interested in making FOIL work, certain modifications are required. Here are some suggestions:
1. Fee for filing a request for an Article 78 should be reduced from $305 to $15, and fee for serving a government official should be reduced from $65 to $10.
2. Non-compliance by government should automatically be referred to the New York State Attorney General for prosecution, as defined in FOIL.
3. I learned that judges may be intimidated by the power of party chairmen and women who too often decide who can be nominated for re-election for judge. This power must be eliminated.
4. The New York State Legislature and governor must make FOIL more effective. If not, those who care about honesty in government should vote in new elected officials who do care.