FOILed again: Investigation shows use of Freedom of Information Laws in Onondaga County

More than 2,000 requests were had across Onondaga County in 2011, the most in Syracuse.

More than 2,000 requests were had across Onondaga County in 2011, the most in Syracuse. Photo by Amanda Seef.

— In Syracuse alone, about 1,500 requests were made resulting in 14,463 pages of documents, a handful of photo disks and a video being released to the public, law firms and insurance companies.

At the other end of the spectrum, most villages see fewer than 20 requests a year. The village of Jordan didn’t receive a single FOIL request in 2011. Others are scattered, anywhere between four in Elbridge to 18 in Fayetteville and 20 in North Syracuse.

The majority of FOIL requests for villages with fire departments are from insurance companies, records show.

More than 50 percent of all requests in the villages of Fayetteville and Minoa were medical reports from insurance companies or the coroner’s office, in regards to care a patient received prior to being brought to the hospital or pronounced dead by ambulance crews.

Those FOILs, said Lorie Corsette, Fayetteville village clerk, are sent out to the fire department to fill.

Controversy breeds requests

Embroiled in controversy in the fall, the village of Camillus saw four of their seven FOIL requests in 2011 relating to November’s dissolution vote and budget discussion, records show. Residents wanted to see information related to the petition, board meetings and the adopted budget for 2011.

Many of the FOIL requests sent to local municipalities shed light on what was important to the residents at the time — requests for municipal budgets during election season is a common occurrence, as well as requests for building plans or permit applications for developing businesses. In East Syracuse, requesters sought out information on the village police department, which could be up for dissolution this spring. In Fayetteville, requests for the fire department budget were made as the news broke of the fire department’s mortgage causing a tax increase in the town of Manlius.

“People don’t care about what’s going on with public affairs until they have to, then they pay attention,” Gutterman said. “It’s a lot more fun to pay attention to gossip than the innerworkings of a school or village board.”

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