Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who promised transparency in her administration, appears to be following Republican predecessor Edward Mangano's playbook on how to delay Freedom of Information Law requests — a tactic that also was used by the former GOP-run administration of Nassau University Medical Center.
The practice is to respond late to requests for public records — even though the Freedom of Information Law requires acknowledgment within five days — and then to say it will take 20 days to decide whether the records exist and are available under FOIL.
NUMC was sued in October 2017 by a law firm alleging that the hospital acknowledged multiple requests late and then gave the same form letter response — but did not provide the records.
The hospital's response went: “We estimate it will take 20 business days from today to produce a response to your request, including determining the existence and availability of the requested records.”
Newsday received the same form letter from NUMC on at least four FOIL requests before George Tsunis was appointed chairman of the board earlier this year and directed that records be released.
But Curran’s administration has adopted the Mangano strategy.
The county this week was late in responding to a Newsday request for 2017 records from the Assessment Review commission and then said, “Your request is being reviewed to determine if the records you request are available and subject to the FOIL. You should receive a response within twenty (20) business days.”
Newsday received the same response two years ago from the Mangano administration when asking for the same records from 2015: The tax refund liability chart submitted to outside auditors for the county’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
Two years ago, Newsday told the Mangano administration it already had obtained the chart from a county source and the county comptroller confirmed that ARC had submitted it to the outside auditors months earlier. ARC then provided the chart to Newsday.
Now, Newsday wanted the official record for 2017, even though it already had obtained a copy of last year’s estimated tax refund liability chart from a source. Curran’s administration responded to the FOI by saying it needed 20 days to discover if that record is available.
Late Thursday, Curran spokesman Michael Martino formally denied the request.
“The county attorney determined these documents are privileged and to release them could put the county at risk,” he said.
However, ARC had just released the records to Newsday. Minutes later, a spokesman for County Comptroller Jack Schnirman confirmed that the chart obtained by Newsday was the same chart that ARC submitted earlier this year to the comptroller’s office for preparation of the outside auditor's report.