Please Don’t Destroy Geneseo (PDDG) has filed a Article 78 petition against Geneseo Supervisor Wes Kennison and the Town of Geneseo over the town’s alleged failure to comply with the NYS Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) The papers were served on Supervisor Kennison Friday and the case, PDDG vs. Kennison, is expected to be heard in State Supreme Court in Geneseo later this month.
The dispute concerns the town’s failure to supply 10 specific records that were part of a FOIL request for 36 documents originally filed by Bill Lofquist on October 11,2006. The documents were identified as existing after PDDG FOILed the billing records of Underberg & Kessler (UK), the town’s attorneys. Kennison who serves as both the town’s FOIL officer and its FOIL appeals officer refused to release the documents.
After his appeal was denied, Lofquist sought and received an opinion from the NYS Open Governments Committee backing his position. PDDG then retained Attorney Mindy Zoghlin to make a final demand on the town.
Finally, on February 20, 2007 the Geneseo Town Clerk Jean Bennett signed a certification that the records were “missing and could not be located.” This was followed up by a letter from UK attorney Ron Hull who claimed that the town had the right to destroy “routine paper and electronic correspondence … in the ordinary course of business.”
PDDG petition further claims that this is a violation of Section 57.25 of the NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, which holds it is the responsibility of every local officer to maintain public records “for as long as the record are needed for the conduct of the business of the office.” The law also provides local officials can not destroy such records without the permission of the NYS Commissioner of Education.
In addition to the PDDG organization, Lofquist and PDDG President and Clarioncall.com Publisher Corrin Strong are listed as individual plaintiffs. Strong, the former editor of The Lake and Valley Clarion newspaper, said he wants the records released so he can publish them on his new web site The PDDG File. “When people can finally learn what has been said and done in their name, I think they will see that the Newman proposal has corrupted our local governmental process” he said.
Plaintiff Lofquist said that, as a village trustee, he was reluctant to sue, but felt he had no choice after being stonewalled by the town. “I regret the circumstances that have brought us to this point, however, I cannot accept that the public is being denied access to their own records in a matter of such great local concern,” he said.
“If the records truly are lost, the easiest thing would be for the Town to request copies from Newman and other members of the development team. As a company that professes its good will towards Geneseo, Newman should be eager to resolve this matter. Once they do, we will be happy to dismiss the suit.”
PDDG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org