Public has right to know

Last week, we saw yet another example locally of how officials can obstruct the public’s right to know significant information.

Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo refused to release the name of a special-education teacher placed on paid administrative leave. Fortunately, other sources with knowledge of the issue did release the name of the teacher, Bill Decker, but it shouldn’t have been necessary to get the name from unnamed sources.

The public has a right to know how its money is being spent, particularly when the money is going to public employees who’ve been suspended from their jobs.

Not only should schools and municipalities release names of public employees who have been placed on leave, they also should inform the public of the reasons for suspending the employees.

Often, the result of government secrecy is suspicion among the public. Public officials should, whenever possible, err on the side of openness and transparency rather than silence and obstruction.

We raise this issue now in part because this week is Sunshine Week, a national initiative of the American Society of News Editors aimed at highlighting the importance of transparency and the public’s right to know about the inner workings of its government. Sunshine Week is always a good time to revisit the significance of New York state’s Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law, both of which help the public gain access to information about what their government is up to.

This newspaper continues to fight for the public’s right to know. We encourage the public to learn more about FOIL and the Open Meetings Law at www.dos.ny.gov/coog.