PRESERVING A PAPER TRAIL

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FYI: Councilmember David Yassky is trying to add local teeth to the state’s freedom of information law, following a March 2003 City Council investigation that found city agencies woefully unresponsive to FOIL requests. Yassky introduced a bill last week that would make it a misdemeanor to destroy or hide records with the intent of keeping them from the public. Offenders could get fined up to $1,000 or get 30 days in jail. Last March, the council tested 83 city offices with a simple FOIL request: name, title, office address and salary of all the agency’s employees. Less than half of the offices fully complied with FOIL rules, and 17 percent never responded at all. The issue of destroying public records came to the fore following the Village Voice’s efforts to investigate misuse of funds by former Housing Development Corporation director Russell Harding, who sought to hide incriminating records from the Voice. [2/9/03]