Tag Archives: County Historian Justin White

State: Residents should have access to records

by Carol Thompson

Records of the Oswego County Orphanage that existed until the facility closed in 1956 are not all confidential, according to Robert Freeman, who serves as the executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government.

Frank Fisher of Florida had traveled to Oswego County to inspect some of the records held by County Historian Justin White and the Oswego Historical Society. Before making the long trip, he scheduled an appointment with White.

When Fisher arrived,  White did not show for the appointment and Fisher has been denied access to the records he sought.

Fisher, and any resident of the orphanage, are entitled to look at their own records, Freeman said. “They can’t invade their own privacy,” he said.

Freeman added, “They have the right to look at who visited them while in the home.”

A program that was handed out as a part of the orphanage’s centennial celebration in 1952 was also not made available to Fisher. Freeman said there is no legitimate grounds to deny access to the program if it exists.

Minutes of meetings are public, Freeman said, and that includes minutes from the beginning of county government.

There are certain records that must be permanent and must be made available. Among those records are the proceedings of meetings.

Freeman said a municipality can relocate records off premises but doing so does not exempt them from public inspection. The county retains ownership despite its location.

Fisher sent a letter to each of the 25 legislators in October in complaint of White. Fisher said he has yet to receive a response from any of the legislators but said he understood they may be busy working on the budget.

He noted that he will give them more time to respond before contacting them again and has no intention of giving up his quest to learn more about the place that was home for him during his childhood.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397

Florida resident irked as he tries to find historical information

by Carol Thompson

A retired Navy officer, who came from Florida to Oswego County to research the Oswego Children’s Home, formerly known as the Oswego Orphan Asylum, alleged that not only was he denied access to the records, but that County Historian Justin White failed to meet with him at a scheduled time.

In a Sept. 26 letter sent to Oswego County legislators, Frank Fisher said that he had made an appointment with White personally before traveling to Oswego County.

“Mr. White stood me up for our appointment September 8, 2012…” the letter states. ”I had made the appointment by telephone with Mr. White personally before traveling from Florida to Oswego with a brief stop in Poughkeepsie.”

Fisher said that he was a resident of the Oswego Children’s Home from 1951 through 1956 when it closed. He had requested to view the ledgers and visitor records and alleged he was denied access.

White also serves as president of the Oswego County Historical Society, where the records are kept.

Fisher alleged White refused to provide him with the names of the historical society board members and refused to provide a copy of the organizations Constitution and by-laws.

“Mr. White also fills a part-time non-competitive position as county historian working for the Oswego County Clerk of the Court,” he wrote. “I see little evidence of a vibrant program under Mr. White’s direction there either.”

As of press time, there were no Oswego County Historical Society board members available to comment.

When contacted, White said he could not speak to the media per a Sept. 20 memo issued by acting County Clerk Georgiana Mansfield. The county historian falls under the jurisdiction of the county clerk and White also works in the Oswego office as an index clerk.

The legislature’s Community and Consumer Affairs Committee held an executive session last week in regard to the content of the memo, however, legislators are being tight-lipped as to the outcome of the closed door meeting and whether the gag order had been lifted.

To read the rest of the story, pick up the latest copy of The Valley News. You may also subscribe to the paper by calling 598-6397
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County historian defends position

by Carol Thompson

A request for information in regard to the duties performed by the Oswego County historian yielded few documents and raised the question as to whether the county legislature must follow state law.

Under the Freedom of Information Law, a request was made for all of the correspondence between County Historian Justin White and other town historians, including hard copies and e-mail as well as annual reports of activity that are required to be filed with both the county legislature and the state.

The county responded to the request by stating that there are no reports available and that no correspondence is maintained.

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