It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and
public manner and that the citizens of this state be fully aware of and able to observe the performance of public
officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy. The people
must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants. It is the only
climate under which the commonweal will prosper and enable the governmental process to operate for the benefit of
those who created it.
– Legislative Declaration – New York State Open Meetings Law
The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to
the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its
citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government.
As state and local government services increase and public problems become more sophisticated and complex and
therefore harder to solve, and with the resultant increase in revenues and expenditures, it is incumbent upon the
state and its localities to extend public accountability wherever and whenever feasible.
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.
– Legislative Declaration – New York State Freedom of Information Law
Allegany Hope hosts an Open Government Forum, primarily by video conferencing such as Zoom, to bring together individuals and organizations which are interested in open government to learn more about New York State Right to Know Laws, including the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Open Meetings Law (OML). Video conferencing has been chosen as the primary means for communication to enable participation by the greatest number of people throughout Allegany County and beyond.
Even though these laws are approaching 50 years of existence, they often are ignored by local and state government officials due them not knowing about their provisions, although they are required to comply with them, are deemed to be to burdensome to bother with, or simply don’t want to comply with laws which are designed to let the public know about some of the actions they take for any number of reasons.
The Open Government Forum’s current purpose is to:
- Identify open government issues which need to be addressed on the local and state levels;
- Education the public and local government officials in regard to provisions of the FOIL and OML;
- Advocate for greater transparency and Right to Know laws compliance in government operations; and
- Acquaint the public with available resources if they are rebuffed in attempts to obtain public documents or attend or participate in local government meetings.
Information on the FOIL and OML, including video trainings and advisory opinions on the laws which include court case citations, are available at https://on.ny.gov/3blchdB.
Find out more about how you can help yourself, your family and friends in Building Healthy Communities Through Healthy FamiliesTM by contacting us at AlleganyHopeWNY@outlook.com or (484) 435-0503.