Freedom of Information chief visits Greenport Village

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Bob Freeman, who heads the state’s Committee on Open Government, speaking during Thursday’s meeting.

A state official agreed Thursday that Greenport Village officials should comply with a resident’s Freedom of Information requests asking for details about corporate sponsorships and an email discussing a recent sewage spill at the wastewater treatment plant.

Bob Freeman, director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, said the village should disclose information about the corporations who sponsored the village’s Tall Ships event this past Memorial Day weekend because the village had listed each company on an advertisement.

Although information about donations from private individuals are exempt from the law, Mr. Freeman said details about corporate sponsorships should be disclosed through FOIL requests. State legislation requires government entities, including municipalities and school districts, to release certain information to the public upon request.

For several months, Bill Swiskey, a former village utilities director and trustee, has been seeking details about how the Tall Ships event was financed. He has also been hunting for an email Deputy Mayor George Hubbard referred to as he disclosed details about a recent spill at the wastewater treatment plant.

The tank overflowed for about 10 hours — from 9 p.m. July 15 until 7 a.m. July 16 — after an alarm didn’t sound when lightning caused a brief power outage and a screw pump didn’t restart after the power was restored.

Mr. Freeman said even though the email would be exempt from FOIL because the village described the content as “a legal opinion,” he said the village should disclose a portion of it since Mr. Hubbard referenced to it at a July 23 Village Board meeting where he said the spill was 150 gallons. The state Department of Environmental Conservation later estimated 50,000 gallons of partially treated wastewater spilled.

During the special meeting Thursday night held downtown jointly with Southold Town and Greenport Village, about 20 people listened as Mr. Freeman and Mr. Swiskey got involved in several heated discussions.

Read more in the Oct. 25 issue of  The Suffolk Times in both our print and electronic editions.

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