My FOIL was triggered by this announcement on the County's website (which is still very much there).
I promised to my readers that I will try hard to obtain the cell phone numbers of phones that taxpayers pay to provide to County employees - and I succeeded, partially at this time.
FOIL requires the County to provide the records within 5 business days.
I made my FOIL request on September 8, 2015, a Tuesday, by e-mail, which was instantly received by the County, so there were no excuses for any delays.
5 business days were up within a week, by September 15, 2015 another Tuesday.
Yet, initially I was told by Otsego County that they are taking their sweet time to do a "legal review" of my request - which does not constitute legal grounds for the delay.
The County Attorney who was supposed to conduct the "legal review" is Ellen Coccoma:
Ellen Coccoma is the wife of the Chief Administrative Judge for upstate New York Michael Coccoma, Ellen Coccoma, who holds two jobs (that I know of) - as a full-time County Attorney, and as a "special counsel" for a large Binghamton law firm Hinman, Howard and Kattel, LLP (for that reason, I asked for Ellen Coccoma's own time-sheets for certain dates, which I still did not get.
I understand, Ellen Coccoma was too busy in her multiple jobs to conduct a 5-second research on the Internet, on the website of the Committee for Open Government, to find the Committee's advisory opinion of June 5, 2007, providing, among other things, that "the telephone numbers and email addresses assigned to public employees clearly relate to the performance of their duties and, therefore, there is nothing “personal” or intimate about them".
After much additional correspondence with Otsego County that I did not have to engage had Otsego County complied with the Freedom of Information Law as they were supposed to, the Otsego County sent me SOME information about "assigned" (not necessarily cell phone numbers) of its officers and employees, and some e-mail addresses of its officers and employees while keeping them secret on their website.
Providing "assigned" phone numbers, without indicating that they are assigned cell phone numbers, as I requested, is not an appropriate response to my FOIL request.
It appears that the phone number provided to me of, let's say, Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl, (607) 432-7568, is his cell phone number, since it does not coincide with his office number listed on the Otsego County website, (607) 547-4249, but, since the Otsego County did not state in so many words that the assigned phone numbers disclosed are cell phone numbers, there is no clarity about that.
The first 3 digits appear of many disclosed phone numbers (published below) appear to be of local cell phone numbers, but I did not ask in my FOIL to make me guess or speculate, I asked disclosure of assigned CELL phone numbers, and I did not get a statement that the disclosed numbers are CELL phone numbers, making disclosure incomplete.
Otsego County also stated that "disclosure of cell phone numbers and email addresses of law enforcement personnel and emergency services personnel is denied pursuant to Public Officers Law Section 87, subd. 2".
Please, note, that while I asked the records to be provided to me to my e-mail address in a scanned format, not utilizing any paper, the records were sent to me in printed format, against my wishes, and the County is attempting to charge me $2.75.
Yet, the County was supposed to provide to me scanned copies of the 11 pages it sent me for free, which is exceedingly clear from the advisory opinion of the New York State Committee for the Open Government of September 4, 2012, also available after a 15-second word-search on the FOIL advisory opinion index.
Moreover, as a veteran of e-filing with federal courts, I know that any information that exists on a computer, and cell phone and e-mail assignments are obviously kept by Otsego County in a computer file and not in a leather-bound hand-scribbled volume, such computer files (any files) can be easily printed into a pdf file and attached to an e-mail - so no scanning and no printing is even required to produce a CRISP pdf print and satisfying my FOIL request the way it was made, requesting an attachment of requested records by e-mail.
Moreover, even if Otsego County was decided between scanning and printing, its decision to print and not to scan, as I requested, is even more suspect that Otsego County happily announced on its own website an ongoing sale of "surplus" equipment:
I read buyers' feedback to Otsego County and printed it - 8 pages of it.
In those feedbacks, Otsego County is praised for selling, individually and as LOTS, printers, SCANNERS, monitors and other valuable equipment - for peanuts.
I preserved those feedbacks - by paperlessly printing them into a PDF file, and will run a separate blog analyzing the types of equipment and prices for which it was sold to happy e-bay buyers whose names remain "private", even though equipment belonging to taxpayers must be sold at PUBLIC auctions, with names of people who bought it being PUBLIC, to preclude self-dealing of Otsego County officers and employees and giving themselves taxpayer-funded equipment for free or nearly for free.
I will also turn the feedbacks into the respective agencies with authorities to investigate to verify the identities of the happy buyers of equipment from Otsego County.
It is clearly a big question why FOIL requests that could be easily and effortlessly satisfied by a printout to a PDF file and by sending it (for free) to an e-mail address (as I requested), Otsego County, after a 5-months' "legal review" by its County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, (1) blocked records pertaining to Ellen Coccoma herself, and (2) wasted postage and paper on a FOIL request that could be satisfied without postage and paper.
As to denial of some cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses, here is yet another opinion of the Committee for the Open Government, dated June 29, 1994 and issued by the Executive Director of the Committee Robert Freeman, states that Freedom of Information Law creates a presumption of access to the records, unless records fall into one of the exceptions provided for in Public Officers Law 87(2)(a) through (g). Finding it also required only the time to type "basis for denial" into the search window of the FOIL advisory opinions index on the website of the New York State Commission for the Open Government.
The Otsego County Records Officer Carol McGovern, who New York law allows to be held personally responsible for attorney fees if sued for withholding records that must be released, pointed (obviously, after a "legal review" by Ellen Coccoma) only at the root section and subsection, Public Officers Law 87(2) as a basis for denial, but not at the exact subsection which she used to deny me access to cell phone numbers and e-mails of "law enforcement and emergency personnel".
Here is Public Officers Law 87, subd. 2 - in its entirety:
2. Each agency shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that: (a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute; (b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article; (c) if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations; (d) are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise; (e) are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would: i. interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings; ii. deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication; iii. identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation; or iv. reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures, except routine techniques and procedures; (f) if disclosed could endanger the life or safety of any person; (g) are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not: i. statistical or factual tabulations or data; ii. instructions to staff that affect the public; iii. final agency policy or determinations; iv. external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller and the federal government; or (h) are examination questions or answers which are requested prior to the final administration of such questions. (i) if disclosed, would jeopardize the capacity of an agency or an entity that has shared information with an agency to guarantee the security of its information technology assets, such assets encompassing both electronic information systems and infrastructures; or * (j) are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-a of the vehicle and traffic law. * NB Repealed December 1, 2014 * (k) are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-b of the vehicle and traffic law. * NB Repealed December 1, 2014 * (l) are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images produced by a bus lane photo device prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-c of the vehicle and traffic law. * NB Repealed September 20, 2015 * (m) are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images prepared under the authority of section eleven hundred eighty-b of the vehicle and traffic law. * NB Repealed August 30, 2018==
So, which one of the exceptions listed in subsection 2 - none of which applies - did Otsego County mean? Nobody knows, because Otsego County denied me access to cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses of law enforcement and emergency personnel without any explanation whatsoever as to which subsection of Subdivision 2 is the basis for the denial, and that is not a valid reason for the denial of my presumed right of access.
I do not know also which employees Otsego County chose to group under "law enforcement and emergency" personnel, which is yet another problem. Their names may be the point of disclosure in a lawsuit.
Here are lists of cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses of Otsego County employees (still not disclosed on the Otsego County website) that I did receive. I publish it as a matter of my public service as a citizen journalist to the public of Otsego County and beyond. Area code is (607), I presume. I publish the records as I received them. I will try to verify with the County what are the first three digits of cell phone numbers on the top of pages where they are not indicated.
The first name on the list is Theresa Lombardo, and her phone number is 4262, the first 3 digits not provided, and the same for phone numbers of people listed underneath her, up until the "Public Health Director cell phone".
I will have to file an administrative FOIL appeal for that information.
Now, if the "assigned phone numbers" are assigned cell phone numbers, as I requested in my FOIL request, Otsego County pays for cell phones of its 291 officers and employees, some of them attorneys with a private practice on the side, such as:
- Michael Getman;
- Ellen Coccoma,
If any numbers or names are not clear from the scanned copy, please, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will clarify if it is more visible on my paper copy.