NNY360 | November 21, 2019 | Debra Groom
BOYLSTON – Another court date is set for the case involving a Boylston resident suing the town for denying to provide documents requested through the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
The case is due in state Supreme Court in Oswego Nov. 27. Two other court dates in September and October were postponed.
In her court filing, Chris Soderlund states she requested records concerning the town’s spending in its highway and general accounts in 2017. Through three requests, she has not received the information she wants, according to the court filing.
Boylston Supervisor Ann Stacy and a town lawyer did not respond to email and phone requests for comment.
Soderlund’s lawyer, Cameron J. Macdonald, with the Government Justice Center in Albany, said Soderlund wanted the records to be from the checkbook registers of the accounts. Town officials provided records, but they were not the records Soderlund wanted.
Soderlund went on to make a second request for the records, asking for the reports to be generated from the town’s accounting software (QuickBooks). Macdonald said the town denied the second request stating Soderlund did not pay for the records they had already made for her — which were the records she had not requested and had not agreed to be copied by the town.
“The town then denied a third FOIL request for records on the grounds (Soderlund) had not paid for records she never agreed to have copied,” Macdonald said.
Stacy has not commented on the case.
In a February email to Macdonald, Stacy said she has been in touch with Robert Freeman, then-executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, concerning how to deal with Soderlund’s FOIL requests.
“Our counsel and understanding from Mr. Freeman was that until Mrs. Soderlund satisfies the first FOIL request, the town does not have to accept additional FOIL requests, again, per counsel,” Stacy wrote. “Mrs. Soderlund has done nothing but to continue sending different FOIL requests and hasn’t tried to resolve her first request until now. Just to clarify — it was not that Mrs. Soderlund was denied the records – WE DO NOT HAVE THE CAPABILITIES TO REDACT .PDF DOCUMENTS — as she was told by our Town Clerk.
“As with most small towns, we have Adobe Reader to read .pdf files, but we do not have the $700-plus Adobe Acrobat program needed to redact bank account numbers, which appear on our QuickBooks reports. And — also according to Mr. Freeman — our small town is not obligated to purchase such programming just to satisfy Mrs. Soderlund’s request. So in order to accommodate her requests, we offered her a viable alternative (again, per Mr. Freeman’s counsel) as the documents offered contain the same information she requested. She never said she didn’t want them,” wrote Stacy in her email to Macdonald.
According to the court papers, the first FOIL request by Soderlund was made in July 2018. The second was made in August 2018. Soderlund appealed the denials in September 2018. In October 2018, FOIL appeals officer and town Supervisor Ann Stacy said the town would not prcoess Soderlund’s FOIL requests because she didn’t pay for the earlier unwanted requests.
In January 2019, Soderlund paid Boylston the $13.50 and her lawyer provided the town with step-by-step instructions on how to generate the check register report from the QuickBooks software. On Feb. 2, 2019, the town again denied Soderlund’s Freedom of Information Law request.
Two more requests and/or appeals were made to the town for the information and the court papers state the town never responded.