In this past Sunday's editorial, we laid out the sloped, bumpy, mine-filled landscape for open government in New York and highlighted the challenges facing the new executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, Shoshanah Bewlay.
But it might be worse than we thought.
A report in the Albany Times Union yesterday revealed the shady hiring practices used to bring in Bewlay, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office's decision to keep the appointment secret even from the 11-member open government committee that oversees the state's transparency efforts.
The report also stated that Ms. Bewlay's record on open government while serving for the past four years as general counsel at the state Office of Information Technology Services was far from encouraging. In her role, Bewlay oversaw the agency's responses to Freedom of Information Law requests and had a track record of denying requests. The TU reported that out of 10 rulings on its FOIL requests it sought through Bewlay's office, all 10 were denied.
It's also disturbing that Ms. Bewlay wouldn't comment for the Times Union's story. It's in the interests of transparency that public officials make themselves available and open to answering the public's questions.
It's no secret that Cuomo and former Executive Director Robert Freeman, who was fired over sexual misconduct allegations in June, didn't get along. Freeman often openly clashed with the governor and regularly sided with citizens and the media in open government disputes.
We don't know how Ms. Bewlay will perform once she's actually in the job and whether she'll enjoy the same autonomy that Freeman did. But this report doesn't exactly inspire confidence that efforts to keep government open and accessible will be a priority.
Ms. Bewlay said in a statement announcing her appointment that she takes "very seriously the role this office has in promoting an open and transparent government for the people of New York.”
Let's hope she meant that.
As we said in our editorial on Sunday, New Yorkers need her to succeed more than ever.