Mysteries Solved - 27 East

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Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1681669

Mysteries Solved

“Fogging Up The FOIL” would have been a more apt title for the letter from Rob Coburn [“Clearing Up FOIL,” Letters, February 20] accusing, while not naming, me of making “ominous” and “fear-mongering” misstatements to mislead the public concerning the tainted Freedom of Information Law request that created so much mystery and left a lingering stench in Village Hall. As I am one of those named in that phantom FOIL, and Mr. Coburn is not, I hope I can clear up his misstatements with a few (easily attainable) facts.

He states that, “contrary to repeated statements,” the FOIL request had to be time-stamped “probably twice … by virtue of having been received via email,” and again because it would have been “stamped into a physical file, as is routinely done.” Those omissions were glaring and irregular, which is what I spoke to, leading him to accuse me of “misstatements” with “defamatory implications” based on his assumptions.

Then he states: “How the speaker received an unstamped copy … is an interesting question … The public deserves an explanation of who provided [it].” Thanks for making my point, Mr. Former Compliance Officer.

And let me answer the “interesting” question you posed:

Russell Kratoville handed two people copies of this now-infamous FOIL request from a fictitious person in Alabama, with the date, time stamp and sender’s email address excised — on village letterhead, to lend authenticity. That, and the fact that I have tried unsuccessfully to get this withheld information from Mr. Kratoville, is what I was addressing at the meeting. Had Mr. Coburn been listening, he might not have glibly mis-characterized what I said.

I hope the public he is so concerned with protecting has been served by these actualities, and not Mr. Coburn’s assumptions and uninformed proselytizing.

And I can also advise him that long experience, and copious conversations and opinions from the Committee on Open Government, made me as cognizant of what is FOIL-able as he claims to be. I know what is private and what is not and open to scrutiny. However, this particular FOIL was meant to muddy those distinctions, to publicize names, to chill participation and to hint at unpleasant consequences.

Mistrust and disquiet was the intent of such a ludicrously broad anonymous inquiry: to harass, to besmirch any contact with the mayor; to cause the ordinary person to pause before expressing themselves to officials, and to fear invasion of privacy even if only through exposure from vetting an official’s correspondence and from seeming to be part of an investigation.

Let me also solve a mystery rhetorically vexing Mr. Coburn: He suggests we may never know who made the FOIL request. On the contrary — everyone paying attention knows who filed it. No mystery there.

Frances Genovese

Southampton

Mr. Kratoville said he, in fact, did provide a written copy of the FOIL request as described, but to only one person — Ed.

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