Spin Cycle

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Suffolk Legis. Tom Cilmi is upset by what he sees as the Bellone administration's far too frequent of warnings on county documents labeled "privileged and confidential" and "not subject to the Freedom of Information Act."

What really set Cilmi off was a July 20 document from Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services office marked "privileged and confidential" that simply warned lawmakers there was an "Air Quality Alert in effect from 10 a.m. Monday to 10 p.m. Monday for Suffolk County."

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Cilmi, in a scathing memo to County Attorney Dennis Brown, whose office originated the warning, said, "Why in the world would this be privileged and confidentiale Isn't it something that we would WANT to warn people about "

Brown in an email response conceded it was "an injudicious use" of the warning, but added "I do not think that a misstep . . . is reason enough to eliminate it."

Even more heated, Cilmi called Brown's response "a non-answer," emphasizing nothing should be marked confidential or privileged when it "would discourage dissemination of information that either should be or could be in the public domain."

"I am sure of these and similar phrases are not an attempt to purposefully stifle public information," said Cilmi. "But that may be the unintended consequence. And that is a consequence I cannot accept."

"I understand your point," answered Brown later, promising "to work up a compromise process."