By Rebecca Martin
On November 26th, 2014, KingstonCitizens.org FOILED the Empire State Development office requesting a copy of Niagara Bottling’s Consolidated Funding Application for review. Month after month, we were contacted and told that the request was being worked on and that we would receive it shortly.
According to NYS Committee on Open Government, it states that “when an agency receives a request, the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) states that it has five business days to grant or deny access in whole or in part, or if more time is needed, to acknowledge the receipt of the request in writing and indicate an approximate date by which the agency will respond to the request, usually not more than 20 additional business days.“
The Empire State Development website however vaguely lists exclusions including grants it appears. Perhaps the language provides a loop hole in this case.
At any rate, we finally received the application on April 2nd, 2015. In their letter, they relayed that “Pursuant to section 87, subsection 2, subdivision (d) of FOIL, we have redacted portions of the Consolidated Funding Application that “are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise.”
In other words, all of the potential jobs and their salaries promised to the Town of Ulster site were blackened out. To this day, we still can’t get information on what those positions and salaries were to be as you can see in the application.
In addition, we requested the minutes of all meetings of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council at which the Niagara Bottling proposal was discussed.
They wrote that “pursuant to section 87, subsection2, subdivision (g) FOIL, we are withholding the non-public meeting minutes of the Mid-Hudson Regional Development Counsel that discussed Niagara Bottling’s proposal as they are “inter-agency or intra agency materials which are not (i) statistical or factual tabulations or date; (ii) instructions to staff that affect the public; (iii) final agency policy or determination; (iv) external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller of the federal government.”
Perhaps it is truly in their purview not to share the information that we requested. Hard to know. You’d need to a lawyer to confirm that.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to request full transparency when allocating public funding, but apparently it is. In the end, following the process as we have all along the way, we hope to shed some light and even improve how future funding is allocated.
On Niagara Jobs:
Niagara Bottling Plant a Modern Marvel
“Filling, labeling, capping, packaging and loading are done with minimal human involvement.”