WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Nov. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Reclaim New York (Reclaim) announced new lawsuits against five major government entities from across the lower Hudson Valley who denied basic Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for expenditure information – which they're legally required to maintain, and make public.
The suit charges that Beacon City School District in Dutchess County, Peekskill City School District in Westchester County, the Village of Spring Valley in Rockland County, as well as the Town of Deerpark, and Chester Union Free School District in Orange County, all violated the state's transparency law by refusing to show residents how their tax dollars are spent.
"New York's systemic corruption shatters trust in government. Hudson Valley residents need to demand better, and that starts with seeing how their money is being spent," said Reclaim New York Executive Director Brandon Muir. "Governments that try to keep spending in the shadows will be held accountable. That starts with enforcement, and grows stronger when citizens demand oversight."
Reclaim sent 246 records requests for FY2014 checkbooks to every County, City, Town, Village, and School District government in the Hudson Valley (including Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester counties).
The organization received complete expenditure records from 203 local governments, who complied with the FOIL request. These records are now online, and searchable, in the New York Transparency Project's Local Government Spending Database – a first for New York State.
A total of 10 local governments denied the requests. They either responded with an outright denial or refused to reply at all. In addition to the five entities being sued, the bad actors include: The City of Poughkeepsie, Washingtonville Central School District, the Village of South Blooming Grove, the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, the Village of Montebello.
"In the end, 83 percent of lower Hudson Valley governments completed this request on time. That fact shows how inexcusable it is for public officials in any locality to hide how they spend taxpayer money," Muir stated.
Additional government entities have appealed, are in communication, or can only provide documents through paper copies.
"It's 2016, governments with million-dollar-plus budgets should not be relying on paper to keep records generated during this century," said Muir. "They can also use their lack of technology as an excuse to dodge transparency, forcing residents to sometimes pay thousands of dollars to get access to information they are owed under the law."
"Hudson Valley residents deserve proactive transparency, and we're here to make sure they get it," said Muir. "It's time every elected official understood that transparency isn't a hope. It's the law."
About Reclaim New York:Reclaim New York is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)3 organization that empowers citizens, through education and civic engagement, to make New York a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Follow on Twitter @ReclaimNewYork.