Authority On Open Government Visits The Area
Robert Freeman spoke to an audience of over 50 people last night and answered all of their questions about Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law, including what’s open and private at local common council meetings, boards of education and library meetings.
Freeman says it’s important for the public to learn about these laws because we all have a right to know what the government is up to.
“There are any number of issues which involve the expenditure of tax payer’s money,” he said. “We see that with conjunction with city government, with school districts, villages, towns–everbody is concerned–money is tight. With increasing frequency, we see issues arise that deal with how public money is being spent.”
Freeman says his committee is the only committee on open government in the world. He says every state has these kinds of laws, but very few states have created offices anything like the one in New York.
Utica Councilman Frank Vescera attended the meeting and says knowing open meeting laws forces people to become more professional.
“Transparency, I think, is very important for good government,” he said. “I don’t think that people should fear transparency. Mr. Freeman mentioned it that many times people don’t want transparency to be brought out because it’s embarrassing. They’re going to bring out something embarrassing and they don’t want it brought out to the public.”
Freeman says the public is encouraged to contact his office for any questions they may have on open government. The Committee on Open Government is located in Albany and the telephone number is (518) 474-2518. The website for the committee is http://www.dos.state.ny.us/coog/.
By ZACH LEWIS