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OpinionEditorial

LI deserves public records and open governments

The Town of Hempstead Town Seal as seen

The Town of Hempstead Town Seal as seen on Sept. 24, 2019. The Town of Hempstead sat on Newsday FOIL requests regarding records on current and former town vendors for several months. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

It's far too easy and too typical for government agencies to delay responses to — or ignore — requests made under New York's Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL.

Indeed, journalists and others who use this law to obtain public information are often surprised when a complete response comes quickly.

So, it's disturbing, but not at all shocking, to learn that the Town of Hempstead sat on Newsday FOIL requests regarding records on current and former town vendors for four and six months.

It wasn't until a Newsday story about those requests that the town responded, providing some documents, and promising the rest by the end of January.

Newly elected town Supervisor Don Clavin and spokesman Greg Blower have said they were unaware of the requests before Newsday raised the issue. We are hopeful that town officials will soon fulfill their responsibilities to respond as quickly as possible to outstanding FOIL requests.

This is not a problem specific to Hempstead. Across Long Island, towns and villages often are not properly responsive to FOIL. State agencies, too, are notorious for delays or rejections when documents should be turned over. 

Long Islanders deserve open governments, where public records are available and accessible — so that when that happens, it's not a surprise.

— The editorial board

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