"As of today, April 15 (Tax Day) 2010, Community board 7 has once again chosen to ignore the "Community" it represents. We at the Malba Gardens Civic Association submitted a FOIL (FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW) request to view a biased survey sent out under protest. This survey was sent out in order to vote on a seriously dangerous situation regarding our residential streets, in effect pitting neighbor against neighbor in a contest over safety vs. convenience. According to the Committee on Open Government, CB 7 had five days to respond to our request. CB 7 sent an email acknowledging receipt of the request on April 8th 2010, which would make today five business days. When Councilman Halloran's office contacted Marilyn Bitterman about viewing the surveys and what the results were, she informed them that she would not release the information until after the committee saw the results at their next scheduled meeting.
I am a member of the same committee and was never given the opportunity to help compose the survey letter, the exact number of homes involved, the exact blocks including side streets involved, nor was I given any time to view letter CB 7 had prepared. When I finally was able to view the letter, we immediately sent a letter requesting the wording be changed. In typical CB 7 fashion, they ignored our emails. After several requests the response was "SURVEY WAS SENT". So after the March 26 deadline for responses, we FOIL requested to view returned surveys and received the acknowledgment email. After the legally binding five days I put in a call to CB 7 following the advice of Robert Freeman from Committee on Open Government. When I asked Ms. Bitterman about our request she proceeded to tell me "No one is going to see the surveys until the committee convenes, and that is final". I asked who the Appeals officer was at the Community Board and she informed me she did not know. I then asked her if she was denying my FOIL request to which she responded, “No I sent you an email acknowledging your request”. Well acknowledging a request is not the same as granting it. Today, April 16, 2010 I receive a phone call from the chairman of the Committee (still no official written response) who proceeds to tell me he does not know who the appeals officer is and that no one is going to see the surveys until the committee meets.
Under the Freedom of Information Law, my organization was to have been granted the opportunity to view the returned statements. “Community Board” 7 had five business days to respond, they chose not to. As with our first meeting with CB 7 on this issue when, after claiming that he was representing Whitestone Boosters, (a local beach club) and not CB 7. Chairman Kelty was then invited to a Back Door meeting with DOT Commissioner McCarthy. When I opposed to this I was told By vice Chair Appelian that Mr. Kelty was the CB Chair and therefore privy to the closed door meeting. This is typical of CB 7 and is an outrage, a citizen is shut out of the process and Civic Associations are denied access to what should legally available to all.
WHERE IS THE OPEN GOVERNMENT AND WHY ARE THEY ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH IT?" - Alfredo Centol, Malba Gardens Civic Association
Foil Request to See Surveys
The following is unrelated and in addition to the above-described experiences:
"I recently submitted a Records Access Request (the "Request"), pursuant to FOIL, to CB7. However, rather than disclose the requested records, CB7 deliberately destroyed them.
CB7 District Manager, Marilyn Bitterman, responded via email: "Once the minutes are typed the short hand notes are thrown out...
CB7's destruction of the records despite being aware of the pending Request for those records, appears to be contrary to FOIL; contrary to Section 240.65 of the Penal Law; and may also be contrary to Section 1133 of the New York City Charter, which mandates the preservation of records for specified minimum periods of time. I understand that a person found guilty of a violation of Section 240.65 of the Penal Law may serve up to fifteen days in jail and/or be fined up to $250.00.
CB7's policy is that it will not disclose the original hand-written minutes notes of meetings, but will only disclose minutes in typed form which are subsequently prepared. Meanwhile, CB7 also apparently exploits the typing process as an opportunity to edit and sanitize the minutes, resulting in final typed minutes that typically are devoid of any content that is unflattering to CB7. Such is the case with the typed minutes of the January 11, 2010 public meeting during which CB7 determined the composition of its executive committee. A direct comparison of the final typed minutes with the original hand-written minutes notes would illustrate the extent to which the typed minutes are edited and sanitized. But such comparison is not possible, because CB7 has destroyed the original hand-written minutes notes. Moreover, CB7 destroyed those records, despite being aware that they were responsive to a pending Request made pursuant to FOIL." - Robert LoScalzo, Whitestone
All this comes on the heels of new Sunshine Laws!