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Editorial: Delay in release of documents not justified

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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There's no way it should take a year for a state government agency to tell taxpayers how it's spending $161 million of their money.

But that's exactly how long it took for the Empire State Development Corp. to respond to Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests from the Gannett news organization, which sought spending information for an ad campaign promoting the state's business climate and tourism.

The information was finally revealed last week after Gannett papers started complaining on their editorial pages and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli joined the chorus demanding disclosure.

The information that was finally released should have been readily available within days, not a year. These organizations have plenty of high-paid staffers who could have collected information on the expenditures. It should have been right at their fingertips.

The only reason for the stonewalling was to keep the public in the dark about how much money was being spent on the campaign. Now DiNapoli plans to audit the spending for effectiveness, which only appears more appropriate now, given how hard Empire State Development worked to keep the information secret.

While he’s at it, DiNapoli should also investigate why it took so long to release the records and name those responsible.

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