Rochester, New York — March 19, 2014. Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature today released a legal opinion authored by the counsel to the Legislature in 2001 stating that “a legislator should not have to file a Freedom of Information request to obtain information.” In December 2013, Democrats received a letter from the Brooks’ Administration denying a request for records related to the contract with former lobbyist and Republican Attorney Dennis Vacco and telling legislators the records may be accessed via a FOIL request. In light of the 2001 legal opinion, Democrats today sent Brooks another letter demanding the records.
“If there is one hallmark of this county government, it is that it prefers to operate in the shadows,” Democratic Leader Carrie M. Andrews (D-Rochester) said. “The practice of hiding or deliberately obfuscating serious issues has long been the policy under the current administration. They even violated an opinion from their own legislative counsel by refusing to provide legislators with certain financial records related to the contract with Mr. Vacco. The County Executive and our Republican colleagues in the legislature must set aside this desire for secrecy and provide this information so the public can know how their tax dollars are being spent.”
“This isn’t the County Executive’s money,” Legislator Justin Wilcox (D-Brighton) said. “This is the public’s money and we have a responsibility to know what’s happening with it. We’ve now shown that they are in violation of our county charter by refusing to provide the most basic information on the significant sum of tax payer dollars already spent on Mr. Vacco. It’s long past time for them to be faithful to the basic premise that taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent. We believe this year’s Sunshine Week provides a perfect opportunity for this administration to change course and become more transparent.”
Although no concrete numbers are available, based on previous invoices released to media, Democrats believe it is highly likely that more than a quarter of a million dollars in public funds have been spent on the contract with Mr. Vacco and his firm to date. Please find attached the legal opinion from then Legislative Counsel Fredrick Holbrook affirming legislators’ rights to access information. Ironically, Mr. Holbrook today serves as an appointee on the Monroe County Charter Review Committee.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. For more information on Sunshine Week, please visit their website at www.sunshineweek.org.