Tag Archives: Freedom of Information Law

County’s 2012 HVAC bid

by Carol Thompson

Last year, Oswego County taxpayers spent $182,512 for HVAC maintenance at the county’s office buildings and facilities. Syracuse-based Postle and Jaeckle received the contract award for $82,980, but how the bid was awarded and who awarded it has raised questions.

According to records provided by the county under the Freedom of Information Law, the request to go out to bid for HVAC maintenance was made “11/00/11.”  The specifications were finalized Nov. 22, 2011 and the advertisement for bids was released Nov. 26, 2011.

The bid opening was held Dec. 12, 2011 and the evaluation was completed “12/00/11.” The bid was awarded to Postle and Jaeckle Dec. 20, 2011 and Mary Watson, of the county purchasing department, signed off on the award sheet Jan. 4, 2012.

The bid never went before the Legislature’s Infrastructure and Facilities Committee for approval. There is no indication in the meeting minutes that the bid award was discussed.

The committee has oversight of the Building and Grounds Department; the department responsible for maintenance at all county facilities.

At the time of the contract award, then-Purchasing Director Fred Maxon had been out of work due to illness. The contract award sheet, which is to be initialed by the purchasing director, county attorney, county administrator and legislature chairman, shows County Administrator Phil Church initialed in lieu of Maxon. County Attorney Richard Mitchell initialed the contract sheet and the initials “PC” are noted in the space for the legislature chairman, who at that time was Barry Leemann.

At issue is who had the proper authority to award a bid autonomously, if the contract could be awarded without committee approval.

When the Valley News first raised the question, Legislature Clerk Wendy Falls said that the bid was awarded without committee approval under the county’s cleansing resolution, which allows the chairman and the legislature clerk to take care of end-of-the-year business.

But that resolution, according to former chairmen and county officials, does not include the awarding of bids that must be approved by committees or the legislature as a whole.

Church said that the bid was awarded under New York State County Law, section 625, “and subsequent court decisions and comptroller opinions that allow the county purchasing agent to award contracts.”

To read the rest of the article, pick up a copy of The Valley News. You can subscribe by calling 598-6397 or click on the link on our home page.

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Legislators finally have a FOIL policy

by Carol Thompson

Following months of discussion, the Oswego County Legislature has a Freedom of Information Law request policy that everyone can agree with.

The legislature’s Strategic Planning and Government Committee approved the policy at the Aug. 27 meeting.

At issue was complaints of inconsistencies with FOIL requests and whether lawmakers should have to submit written requests for records needed to perform their job duties.

Some legislators said they had to submit a written request and wait for records; others said they went directly to a department head.

The new policy states that requests filed by legislators for information related to their legislative duties and dealing with issues before any of the committees or the legislature will not be considered requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

Any request exceeding $5 will need to be paid for by the legislator. Waivers can be requested in writing to the legislature chairman or the jurisdictional committee.

Records for personal or political use will be treated as a FOIL request and subject to the same rule and regulations as public requests.

The legislature clerk will make the determination as to the purpose of the request and in the event of a dispute, the legislature chairman will make the determination.

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of the Valley News at our office or at one of several locations throughout the City. For Subscriptions call 598-6397.

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Legislators to hash out FOIL policy

by Carol Thompson

For several months, the Oswego County Legislature’s Strategic Planning and Government Committee has been discussing how legislators will access public records.

When the committee meets Monday, legislators will review a draft policy that spells out how legislators can access records.

Currently, legislators must make a request under the Freedom of Information Law. They are not required to pay for records, however, some legislators have reported considerable wait times for information that they needed for consideration of the business before them.

The draft policy will allow the legislature clerk to charge the requestor a fee equal to that which would be charged under the Freedom of Information Act for any request exceeding $5 in total cost, unless such charge is waived in writing by the legislature chair or the jurisdictional committee chair.

The draft also states that if specific records are otherwise protected or confidential by law, rule or regulation, the agency shall advise the clerk and the requestor and the legislature chairman shall make the determination.

During last month’s meeting, Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler objected to the legislature chairman making the determination as to the confidentiality of records. He said he will continue to raise objections.

To read the rest of the story, subscribe to The Valley News by calling 315-598-6397

County legislators to continue drafting FOIL policy

by Carol Thompson

When the Oswego County Legislature’s Strategic Planning and Government Committee meets today, an update will be given on a draft policy regarding how the county deals with requests made under the Freedom of Information Law.

The committee has been seeking to get a clearer picture as to how requests from legislators are handled.

Currently, legislators must make a FOIL request just as the public must. The legislators are not charged for records, but have said that sometimes they have to wait to receive information that they may need to perform their job duties.

The matter of a new policy was tabled during last month’s meeting so that Robert Freeman, who serves as the executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, could review the proposal.

A majority of the records held by Oswego County are public, but the wait for those records can be lengthy. That’s another issue the committee has addressed in the past and is expected to address once again.

The primary issue is whether legislators should be required to file a written request for records that are a part of their duties in serving the public.

Many of the committee members said they do not have a problem paying for copies of records they need to perform their jobs and those that may be needed for other reasons, however, they questioned the necessity of the written request and the waiting period.

At the last meeting, Legislator Shawn Doyle noted that he had to make a written request for a contract that the legislature was expected to vote on and not only had he not seen the contract prior to his request, but that he had to wait to receive it.

 To read the rest of the story, subscribe to The Valley News by calling 315-598-6397

Oswego County spends thousands to collect decade-old debt

by Carol Thompson

Outside counsel has been hired to assist with the collection of a debt owed to Oswego County that dates back to 1998.

According to documents provided under the Freedom of Information Law, the county has paid the Syracuse based law firm Hancock & Estabrook, LLC a total of $25,712 to collect on a $90,000 judgment owned in the timber theft case of 1997.

The invoices provided by the county are for the time period April 28, 2010 through Jan. 31 and do not include any payments made prior to those dates.

The county has been attempting to collect the money owed by former highway department employee Brian Horning.

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