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Oyster Bay and Reclaim New York team up on transparency issues

Oyster Bay Town Hall is shown in this

Oyster Bay Town Hall is shown in this photo taken on Sunday, March 27, 2016. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Oyster Bay has partnered with the nonprofit Reclaim New York to adopt many of its government transparency requirements, the organization and town officials announced Tuesday.

The Manhattan-based group’s transparency project sets 29 standards for online disclosure dealing with government meetings, budgets, the Freedom of Information Law, contracts, taxes, permits and access to officials and departments.

“Oyster Bay is the first municipality in New York State to adopt a vast majority, more than 80 percent, of Reclaim’s online transparency and accessibility indicators for the town,” Brandon Muir, executive director of the organization said at a news conference held at Oyster Bay Town Hall.

Reclaim New York describes itself as a nonpartisan organization. It is chaired by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer, who has been a major contributor to Republican and conservative campaigns.

Since its March 13 launch, the organization’s website has reviewed or accepted reviews of 25 municipalities, about 1 percent of the nearly 2,300 listed on its site.

Muir said Oyster Bay officials worked with the group to add 14 features to the town’s website — including three years of budgets in a searchable format and its procurement policy — to reach 23 indicators since February.

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, who was appointed in January to replace John Venditto, said the town was “100 percent committed” to transparency in government.

“The town of Oyster Bay has become the standard-bearer on transparency throughout the entire state of New York,” Saladino said.

Saladino, a Republican facing election in November, declined to say whether the town would adopt all of the organization’s standards, which include posting a list of contracts over $10,000 online and a check register detailing payments to contractors.

Marc Herman, the Democratic candidate for supervisor who has called for all contracts to be put online, called Tuesday’s announcement a “stunt.”

“It’s laughable that the town is just now realizing in an election year that we need transparency,” Herman said in a statement.

The organization’s grading system counts each standard equally so that providing a check register online — something North Hempstead does, for example — garners the same 3.4 percentage points as posting contact information for a municipality’s FOIL officer.

Muir said the project is a work in progress that relies on residents and officials submitting information to its platform.

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