The legislature’s purpose in enacting the New York State Freedom of Information Law, PUBLIC OFFICERS LAW, ARTICLE 6 SECTIONS 84-90 FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW reads:
“The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. The legislature therefore declares that government is the public’s business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government in accordance with the provisions of this article.”
We Have A Right To Know!
And they have to tell us! It’s the LAW!
We all know this section of the Public Officers Law as the F.O.I.L. for short and some of us who have a need or a desire to know the facts behind what our government is doing take full advantage of the legislature’s intent to ensure that the public is informed.
The problem is this: some of our public servants and local government employees do not want us to know what’s going on and so they are constantly placing speed bumps along the information highway. They sometimes stonewall when responding, they sometimes respond in excess by throwing everything but the kitchen sink in the works and then charging twenty-five cents a page for copying it (a form of passive retaliation), they produce as little as possible making it necessary to submit requests again and again (hoping that you’ll get frustrated and stop), or they simply lie and say they don’t have anything you’re requesting. And then they say they’ve contacted Mr Robert Freeman of the Committee on Open Government and he told them they didn’t have to respond.
Sound familiar. It should. Because Ravena, that model of small town corruption and wickedness has used all of those avoidance techniques and others to prevent residents from finding out what they’re doing in village hall. And Mr Robert Freeman, an employee in the New York State Department of State, who heads the Committee on Open Government (COOG) and makes a complete farce of the F.O.I.L., takes Ravena’s calls, listens to their fairytales, and tells them they don’t have to disclose. It never occurs to Freeman that the village of Ravena clerks have been lying to him and manipulating him for years; that’s assuming he even cares, since he’s a fixture in state government and gets paid no matter whom he screws over.
What’s worse is that unlike the town clerks, the village clerks are appointed not elected. What does that mean to us residents? Well, you see, Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki, the current village of Ravena clerks, were appointed by the former mummy-mayor John Bruno and his sidekick hatchet-woman Nancy Warner. Now that Bruno is out, Warner is still there keeping her loyal minions under control and terrorized. Bruno ran the village offices by strong-arming people and Warner was his sidekick and made certain everyone played the game or got fired. So it is that Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki survived in village hall because they knew how to take orders and play the game. Even with the election of jellyfish William “Moose” Misuraca and his majority on the village council, he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on and even if he did he probably wouldn’t have the brains to do anything about it, and Nancy Warner is still there running the show, calling the shots, and oiling the internal workings, which includes running Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki.
Remember also that Nancy Warner and Cathy Deluca are bosom buddies, and Nancy Warner was instrumental in creating the Ravena Health and Fitness Center and handing it over to Cathy Deluca.
So let’s look at a real-life scenario where a resident requests disclosure of information on Guess what? Yup, the Ravena Health and Fitness Center (abbreviated RHFC) by sumitting a Freedom of Information Law request for information. The request is for information on the income and finances and monthly figures on memberships of the RHFC. Another request was for the costs for the Ravena Centennial Celebration and how many tickets were sold and how many tickets were given away. All of this information is public access but not in Ravena.
So the resident submits the requests and Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki get it first. They then go to Nancy Warner to ask her what she wants done with it. Nancy Warner goes pale, clutches her chest, seems to be having an orgasm, and then calls Cathy Deluca who it just happens is the manager of the RHFC and just happens to be the chairperson and organizer of the Ravena Centennial Celebration. Deluca, when she hears the news, like Nancy Warner, goes pale, clutches her chests, and has an orgasm. Their response: No way! José! We can’t let anyone with half of a brain have any of that stuff; it’ll send us all to Albany County Jail! They have to find a way to refuse to disclose the information, after all it’s a week before elections, and if this stuff gets out, they’re dead in the water!
So they cook up some lame-brain excuse why they can’t or won’t provide the documents:
- You have not picked up previous documents and paid the $4.25.
- You have not picked up previous documents and paid the $19.00
But both are clear evidence of the Annette Demitraszek’s and Kristine Biernacki’s stupidity and how Nancy Warner doesn’t care how stupid she makes her underlings look, as long as they can prevent the information getting out to the public! (Well, you don’t think for a minute that former Ravena mayor John Bruno or Nancy Warner appointed people who wouldn’t follow orders, do you? And if they weren’t complete slaves to Bruno and Warner, how long do you think they would last? So of course they’re not going to rock the boat or do anything to piss Nancy Warner off, they’d be history. So like the greedy rodents they are, Demitraszek and Biernacki stay cogs in the machine.)
In the first case, Nancy Warner, through Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki, first refused to produce documents requested in July 2013 first writing:
“Please be advised that your request for legal services payments does not reasonably describe records in our possession because our vouchers are fiiled in chronological order not by subject.”
So what! You can’t find your documents? Or you won’t look for the documents? But that didn’t work very well so they tried this:
“This is to acknowledge receipt of your demand for disclosure dated July 9, 2013 and to inform you that it has been forwarded to the appropriate department. We are expecting to grant your request in whole or in part by July 23.”
We have been informed by COOG that the complexity of the issues involved in determining whether the materials fall within one of the exceptions to disclosure on item #1-3 will take a significant amount of time. They advised us to give you a time frame of 90 to 120 days, which would put us into the fall.
How complex can the issues be? The requester wanted documents that any normal office would have in a filing cabinet ready to go. But the issues are really complex when you consider the corruption under the Bruno administration; they’re still pretty complex, it seems, under the Misuraca administration. Misuraca ran under the slogan “Change!” but only the faces changed, the corruption is still there. When the village of Ravena refused to respond to the FOIL requests, the requester then filed a Notice of Claim, required before filing a lawsuit against the village, and when they didn’t respond by scheduling a hearing to safeguard their rights—rather the rights of Ravena taxpayers and residents, who will have to pay the lawyers and pay for the village’s defense—, the requester then wrote:
On or about August 15, 2013, the village of Ravena was served with a Notice of Claim by my agent for violations of the NYS F.O.I.L.
As of today’s date, I have not been served with notice of the 50-h hearing date nor with written notice from the village of Ravena to the effect that the village of Ravena waives its right to said 50-h hearing.
Please advise in writing of the village of Ravena’s intentions before lapse of the 90 period allowed for exercising the municipality’s right to 50-h prior to filing my suit at law.
I will not accept e-mail notification of the village of Ravena’s intentions.”
The village of Ravena did not respond and did not take advantage of the opportunity to hold the hearing to gather facts about the claim. In other words, they failed to protect their rights and to safeguard the rights of Ravena taxpayers! Why would they do that? you might well ask? Because they were not going to let the information get out there before the 2013 elections knowing how it would incriminate the Bruno administration! They lost anyway.
But the resident still has time to file the lawsuit against Ravena—and we have information that s/he will file the lawsuit in federal court because the case also involves violations of federal law—adding that to the current violations of the Public Officers Law.
You see, normally the documents responding to a FOIL request can be provided almost immediately when the offices keep their records in order or are not afraid to let the information out. Twenty days after a request is considered fair. But 120 days after a request for a small operation like Ravena is downright ridiculous and is such a glaring attempt to conceal that they’re sure to lose a lawsuit! Who in their right mind would want the information so late anyway? It’s deader than dead, staler than stale!
As for the second lame-brain excuse for not producing the documents in response to the most recent request about the membership figures and income for the RHFC and the accounting for the Ravena Centennial Celebration, Demitraszek’s and Biernacki’s stupidity is again glaringly obvious!
In this case they claim that they assembled the requested documents and copied them but the requester never picked up the copies. Well, if they had read the original request they would have read:
“Please notify this requestor when the documents responding to this request have been assembled. The requestor will then make an appointment to review said documents, and request that copies be made of any documents deemed to be sufficiently responsive.
“And you will certainly have noted our remark in that same e-mail:
“If you proceeded to make copies of documents you presumed to be responsive, it seems you may have failed to read the demand in its entirety.”
So Demitraszek and Biernacki made a mistake, didn’t read the clear instructions in the FOIL demand and now are trying to turn things around and use their error to avoid producing the documents requested in the most recent request! Congratulations, Ravena! Your new mayor, monkey-mayor William “Moose the Jellyfish” Misuraca, never cleaned house and now has John T. Bruno’s rodents, Nancy Warner, Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki still doing their voodoo in village hall. Actually, it’s Nancy Warner protecting her partner-in-crime Cathy Deluca and their illegal money pit, the Ravena Health and Fitness Center.
Rumor is that Nancy Warner is not going to embarass herself by running for Ravena trustee again; she’s sure to lose the election. So she has to do her damnedest to keep things rolling for at least another year for her protegée Cathy Deluca.
But we see through their cheap tricks and we will support our neighbors’ rights to get the information out of that brothel they call Ravena village hall, even if their municipal jellyfish-pimp Misuraca just wants to sit there stroking his tentacles. You see, Misuraca and all elected officials owe their loyalty to the constituency, to the voters and taxpayers of this community, village and town. They don’t owe loyalty to their crooked friends down the hall, like Cathy Deluca and Nancy Warner. Cathy Deluca and Nancy Warner will to the same thing that Jerry Dirty-Hands Deluca and his bosom buddy Gregory Darlington did: like the rats they are, they sucked what they could out of this community and then jumped ship. Wake the hell up, Misuraca! Where are your loyalties?
Unless the village of Ravena responds to the most recent demand for disclosure of records relating to the income and expenditures of the Ravena Health and Fitness Center and to the costs and revenues of the Ravena Centennial Celebration, this blog will assist a number of residents who have experienced the village of Ravena’s stonewalling tactics in filing first a Notice of Claim for violation of New York State laws and federal laws, as well as residents’ civil and protected rights, followed by a lawsuit that will force them to comply and to pay damages. We hope also that they will lose all or part of their pensions for their criminal activities.
If you have had experiences similar to these, please send us your name and contact information so we can discuss your case with you and whether it makes sense for you to join the other residents in filing the Notice of Claim and the lawsuit against the village of Ravena, Nancy Warner, Annette Demitraszek and Kristine Biernacki, William Misuraca, and John Bruno. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We intend also to go after Mr Robert Freeman and the Committee on Open Government through the NYS Attorney General and the Office of the Comptroller for Mr Freeman’s abuse of office and complicity with the unlawful and illegal abuse of public office we observe in the village of Ravena municipal government operations. We never publish your personal details or the information you provide without first obtaining your consent. We can be trusted!