Saratoga County

Gazette appeals Saratoga Springs delay on FOIL request

The Daily Gazette on Friday appealed an unexplained delay to a public records request for a surve


The Daily Gazette on Friday appealed an unexplained delay to a public records request for a surveillance tape.

The newspaper requested a copy on Jan. 4 of the tape showing City Attorney Joseph Scala hitting Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco in the head with an envelope full of layoff notices.

In a written notification of receipt a few days later, Scala said the newspaper “may reasonably expect a response within 30 days.”

As of Friday, 46 days had passed since the Freedom of Information Law request was filed, or 33 business days, with no response.

State law requires the municipality to give a reason if fulfilling the request will take longer than 20 business days, said Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government. But Freeman said turning over the tape is an easy enough request that it should have taken less than 20 days.

“They know when it occurred. They can find it. We’re talking about a record that probably does not involve more than a very few seconds,” Freeman said.

“This is not complex. I believe that 30 days is an unreasonable delay.”

The Gazette appealed the lack of response to Mayor Scott Johnson, the city’s records appeals officer.

Johnson did not return calls for comment Friday.

The incident between Scala and Scirocco occurred Dec. 16 after the two passed Department of Public Works layoff notices back and forth, both directing the other official to give them to the affected employees. Just before Scala tossed the envelope, Scirocco brought the layoff notices back to Scala’s office, put them on his desk and left. Scala followed him out of the mayor’s office and tossed the envelope at Scirocco’s retreating back.

He said afterward he was trying to hand the notices back to Scirocco when they slipped out of his hand.

In any case, Scala apologized immediately, no criminal charges were filed, and after a couple of weeks Scirocco dropped an internal workplace harassment complaint he had filed against Scala.

So the tape is not protected for its use in any criminal investigation, Freeman noted.

“The event occurred within plain sight of anyone who happened to be there,” Freeman said, adding there would be no basis for the city to deny access to the tape.

Scala is the city’s appointed human resource officer but is not responsible for day-to-day human resources tasks, he has said.

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