Thiele Helps Pass Sunshine Week Package To Increase Government Openness

Bills would increase transparency and accountability in government

Today, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced the Assembly passed a legislative package that focuses on increasing openness, accountability and transparency in government, commemorating the eighth annual Sunshine Week (March 10-16). Each March, the national, bipartisan Sunshine Week serves as a public reminder of the importance of open government and freedom of information.

“All New Yorkers have a right to know what goes on in state government, which is why Sunshine Week is so important,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “This legislative package would shine light on how government works, making sure our families stay informed and involved in the legislative process and understand how their tax dollars are being spent.”

The Assembly’s legislation would:

  • prohibit government agencies from inappropriately using the copyright law to deny access to a public record (A.1700);
  • limit the time in which state agencies would have to appeal court decisions that order the release of documents as required by FOIL (A.5306);
  • clarify that the name of a retiree, but not a beneficiary, in the public employees’ retirement system is subject to discourse under FOIL (A.5171); and
  • establish an inventory and audit process, administered by the commissioner of the Office for General Services, to document every parcel of real property that has been sold by the state and that is subject to a reverter clause (A.5172).

Additionally, the Sunshine Week package includes legislation already passed by the Assembly addressing the availability of records involved in a judicial proceeding, making them available to the public and media outlets if there is no risk that the disclosure would disrupt the proceedings (A.5170). The bill would permit access to records held by law enforcement agencies or are related to ongoing litigation if it is determined by the presiding judge that release of the records causes no interference with the investigation or proceedings. These changes would circumvent arbitrary denials of access that have occurred in the past, Thiele noted.

“Sunshine Week shouldn’t be just a week-long exercise,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “This legislative package allows for greater public participation and makes our system more transparent year-round for East End families.”