The Village of Brockport has just denied two FOIL requests for information, and one of the denials seems to be a violation of the Freedom of Information Law.
Both FOIL requests were in regard to claims made by the mayor and acting treasurer that it is illegal for the Village to use funds from third party ambulance billing in the General Fund.
The denial that seems to be a violation of the Freedom of Information Law was a request for clarification on a statement made by acting treasurer, Mary Beth Lovejoy.
At the February 9, 2011 Village Board Meeting, Lovejoy said that the third party ambulance fees were mentioned in the Comptroller’s Report.
But, if you read the Comptroller’s Report (Report Number: B2-10-10, dated April 15, 2010) you will find that it DOES NOT mention ambulance fees at all.
Look for yourself. The report is available in searchable pdf format on the Comptroller’s website.
According to the denial issued by the Village, any appeal of the denial must be submitted in writing to the Village Attorney.
The appeal will almost certainly be granted, because the ambulance fees are not mentioned anywhere in the Comptroller’s Report, and the denial contains no information that was not included in the request itself.
So Lovejoy will either have to retract her statement or provide some justification for what she said.
However, any appeal will cost the Village money since the Village Attorney doesn’t work for free. This seems to be a frequent Castaneda tactic — to make the Village Attorney spin his wheels doing unnecessary things, and to make the Village spend money needlessly.
She has been known to call the Village Attorney and spend 50 minutes on the phone whining about how she disagrees with the Trustees about something. Then she’ll call again the next day and whine about the same thing for 45 minutes.
Why do you think the Village Attorney’s contract requires the mayor to get the permission of the Village Board before contacting the village attorney?
But there is more than one way to skin a cat. Perhaps one of the Trustees can ask the acting treasurer to justify her remarks the next time she attends a Board Meeting.
Under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (Public Officers Law, sections 84-90), the mayor and acting treasurer are required to provide such information to the public.
“The Freedom of Information Law, effective January 1, 1978, reaffirms your right to know how your government operates. It provides rights of access to records reflective of governmental decisions and policies that affect the lives of every New Yorker.”
But this is the third time in two months that the mayor and acting treasurer have been unable to provide official records to support their claims about third party ambulance billing.
They were also unable to similar information in FOIL requests submitted on January 5 and January 14, 2011.
A previous glowbass.com article, More false information at village board meeting, even asked if the mayor or acting treasurer has ever taken the time to contact the Comptroller’s Office about this issue?
Until now, the answer is obviously no. But this time, the mayor fired off an inarticulate letter to the Comptroller’s Office asking for a ruling.
Here is the chain of events which spawned Connie’s letter to the Comptroller’s Office.
The first FOIL request was sent to the Village on January 5, 2011, and asked the question, “Did the New York State Comptroller’s office notify the Village that the third party billing was considered general funds?”
Five days later, the Village Clerk replied that: “Such documents do not exist. New York State Office of the State Comptroller representatives did not put such in writing to the Village of Brockport.”
Then, according to the minutes of the January 12 Village Board Meeting:
“Mayor Castaneda said it has recently been made clear that Third Party Billing funds cannot be used to offset the Village’s budget. The Towns are not denying the Village revenues.”
But two days later on January 14, a Democrat & Chronicle article indicated that Cataneda’s statement was not true:
The New York State Comptroller’s Office issued two opinions to Brockport at the village’s request, said spokesman William Reynolds. “One was that the village should not intentionally build surplus ambulance fees in order to generate a profit for the village’s coffers. The other was that ambulance fees are village funds and could be used for “any lawful village purpose,” Reynolds said via e-mail.
Since William Reynolds is the Communications Officer, and the chief spokesperson for the New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, it is probably safe to assume that he knows what he’s talking about.
This generated another FOIL request on January 14. Seven days later, the Village Clerk replied that: “Such documents do not exist. New York State Office of the State Comptroller representatives did not put such in writing to the Village of Brockport. The communications were verbal.”
This left Brockport residents in a “he said, she said” scenario, with the mayor using hearsay evidence to support her argument.
A previous glowbass.com article, More false information at village board meeting asked: “ if Ms. Lovejoy, or any other Village official has ever taken the time to contact the Comptroller’s Office about this issue?
The answer was no then, and it remained no until the mayor fired off the following poorly worded letter to the Comptroller’s Office on February 11th asking for a ruling.
February 11, 2011
Mr. Michael Kupferman
New York State Office of the Comptroller
110 State Street
Albany, NY 12236
Dear Mr. Kupferman:
In late 2009 / early 2010 your office conducted a review at the Village of Brockport. Many things were gleaned during their time with us. On December 22, 2010 Village Treasurer Mary Beth Lovejoy and I had a phone conversation with you regarding our ambulance and third party billing monies.
We are looking for clarification in writing as to the following.
- Is it legal to collect third party billing monies?
- If so, is it legal to make a profit?
- If so, how can those monies be used?
- Are these funds, indeed, considered General Fund assets?
- Can the Village put language in its fire service contracts with the Towns regarding surpluses and deficits?
The Village Board and the public continue to insist that third party billing revenues can be used to offset the general budget. I thought it was made very clear by you that the Village cannot use these funds in this manner.
Please feel free to contact us should you need clarification. I may be reached at (585) 637-5300 X16 or [email protected] The Village Treasurer may be reached at (585) 637-530 X15 or [email protected] Thank You.
Maria Connie Castaneda
The letter is an embarrassment to the people of Brockport.
The first three sentences are so badly written that any middle school English teacher would fill that letter with red marks and given the writer an F.
The opening sentence, “In late 2009 / early 2010 your office conducted a review at the Village of Brockport,” says where the review was conducted instead of what the review was about and why it was conducted.
The second sentence, “Many things were gleaned during their time with us,” is an almost illiterate misuse of the word gleaned.
The third sentence, “On December 22, 2010 Village Treasurer Mary Beth Lovejoy and I had a phone conversation with you regarding our ambulance and third party billing monies” says that Lovejoy and Castaneda own an ambulance.
The wording of the questions is even worse.
One prominent Brockport resident who read the letter said that “she is asking leading questions.” By asking such leading questions, Castaneda is obviously trolling for a negative answer.
Maybe she’ll get one sooner than she thinks. How long will it be before we start seeing hand painted signs that read No more Connie and No more Mary Beth?