Today, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz helped celebrate National Freedom of Information Day and continued his efforts to create a more open and transparent Erie County (“County”) Government by signing an Executive Order (#010) to streamline the process by which the public can access to government records electronically by email.
“My administration strives to create a more open and transparent Erie County Government,” said Poloncarz. “The Freedom of Information Law was created under the premise that it is the people’s right to know the process of government decision-making and that access to such information should not be shrouded with a cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. As part of that effort this Executive Order will help increase the public’s access to government records in accordance with the Law by making it easier for them to request and receive those records electronically through email.”
Executive Order #010—Increasing Access to Public Records Electronically, provides for the creation of an electronic form located on the County’s website, by which the public may submit records access requests or initiate an appeal by email in accordance with New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”). Each department or division of a department’s FOIL Officer will now maintain a specific email account for the receipt of and response to requests for records that will be directly accessible to the public through this form.
The new web portal can be found on the www.erie.gov front page under “Freedom of Information Law Requests” or by clicking here.
Once taking office, it was discovered by Poloncarz that neither a standardized process of adherence to the Freedom of Information Law nor means to accept or respond to requests for records electronically exists for Erie County departments under the control of the County Executive. As it is an expressed goal to create a more open and transparent County government, the Poloncarz administration felt it necessary to create an easier process for the public to access government records electronically by email.
This new policy does not cover departments that are considered independent of the County Executive’s administration, which include: Board of Elections, Clerk, Comptroller, Legislature and Sheriff. It is incumbent upon those offices to establish their own FOIL request and appeals processes.
New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, codified as Public Officers Law, Article 6, §§84-90, is intended to guarantee members of the public the right to access government records. §89(3)(b) of the Law requires all governments to accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail and shall respond to such requests by electronic mail.
Established by a Congressional Joint Resolution in 1989, Freedom of Information Day is held on or near March 16, the birthday of James Madison, fourth President of the United States and primary architect of the Bill of Rights.