The Lysander Town Board held its annual organizational meeting on Jan. 3. During the meeting, the board appointed a records access officer and a records management officer; these two positions handle Freedom Of Information Law (FOIL) requests. In the past, the town clerk handled the duties of both positions according to local law. This past year, the town approved a change in the local law allowing the duties to be appointed by the town board to separate individuals.
Town Clerk Lisa Dell was appointed the records access officer and Ann Smiley, the town’s park and recreation director, was appointed the records management officer.
When the item came up in the organizational meeting, newly-sworn-in Town Councilor Russ Johnson asked why the change was made, adding “it appears it would be more efficient” to keep it the same.
“We find it is easier if we separate these duties,” said Supervisor John Salisbury.
Councilor Andy Reeves said in his opinion he felt better that the FOIL officer was not an elected official; the town clerk is an elected position.
“I think it makes more business sense” to have the same person handling both duties, Johnson said.
Councilor Art Levy asked what the advantage was in having two officials appointed to the two positions.
“There are FOILs for more than just the clerk,” Salisbury responded. “We tried it for a year [the former way]; now we’ll try it a different way.”
Despite the differing opinions, officials ended the conversation and all voted in favor of appointing Smiley to one position and Dell to the other.
Later in the meeting, Dell took an opportunity to address the board. She said when she started her position as town clerk, there was no procedure in place for handling FOIL requests. So, she contacted other town clerks’ offices to inquire about their procedures. As a result, the Manlius Town Clerk offered her office’s procedure, which Dell found most helpful. Dell also added that there are time limits on FOIL requests noting officials have to provide an initial response to the request within five days and, within 20 business days, the inquiring party must have received a response, have been given a reason why the request hasn’t been fulfilled or been asked for an extension to complete the request.