Much ado about gun permit records…which apparently are a mess.

From the scarred earth of the New York gun permit kerfuffle comes some great reporting…..seems the records everyone is so upset about demonstrate wonderfully why access is critical to evaluate the efficacy of the system itself!

When Mike Smith checked an online map of pistol-permit holders published by The Journal News, he was shocked to see his home on it.

He quickly determined his brother-in-law had used Smith’s Valley Cottage address when he successfully applied for a handgun license — in 1997, a few months before he moved to Arizona.

Though angry at his brother-in-law, Smith said he also was left fuming about a process that hadn’t measured up.

“Nobody ever called and verified the address,” Smith said. “They didn’t use his driver’s license. Could somebody else use my address?”

Much, much more here.

NY Paper Publishes Database of Handgun Permits…Chaos Ensues

The saga of the Journal News database of gun permits continues to make headlines, so I thought I’d bring a few of the latest to the blog…

A newspaper based in White Plains that drew nationwide anger after publishing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders last month is being guarded by armed security personnel at two of its offices, the publisher said Wednesday.

The increased security comes as the newspaper, The Journal News, has promised to forge ahead with plans to expand its interactive map of permit holders to include a third county in the suburbs of New York City, and local officials there have vowed to block the records’ release.

The armed guards — hired from local private security companies — have been stationed in The Journal News’s headquarters and in a satellite office in West Nyack, N.Y., since last week, said Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

“The safety of my staff is my top priority,” Ms. Hasson said in a telephone interview.

The newspaper prompted a national discussion and a torrent of rage online after it published an interactive mapof handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties on its Web site last month. The Journal News had gathered the information from public records after the school shooting in nearby Newtown, Conn.

Predictably enough, the response has been histrionic. The county has denied further FOI requests for related records, despite the fact that they are not exempt under New York law.

State lawmakers are making noise about an exemption, though.

Slate weighs in, arguing for continued access. Ken Paulson at the Freedom Forum added a nice look as well.

And some disturbed individual sent the newspaper a package containing a white powdery substance.

FOI at Work: School Bus Crashes in NY

Nice little FOI request:

New York City school buses were involved in 1,700 accidents last year — an average of nearly five per day, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.

The accidents — all of which were caused by the public school bus drivers, Department of Education records show — resulted in more than 900 injuries, according to safety records obtained through the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

The revelation follows a slew of bus crashes involving special-needs students across the city.

But the DOE would not disclose how many of those injured last year were special-needs students, because it does not keep track of what type of buses are involved in crashes.

Nor does the DOE keep records of how many of the injured were students and how many were other passengers, pedestrians or drivers, DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said.

Feinberg said that any accident involving a school bus is “concerning.”

“We treat all accidents of equal importance and are constantly working on improving our vendors’ accident-reduction practices,” she said.

The records also reveal a troubling pattern about relative bus contractor safety, as some contractors log far more accidents than others, regardless of the amount of routes they drive. The city currently contracts with more than 50 different private bus companies who bid on particular travel routes.

A school bus photographed in New York, New Yor...

A school bus photographed in New York, New York. Bus is a 2000-2001 Carpenter Classic 2000 body with an International 3800 chassis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read more: http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121210/new-york-city/citys-public-school-buses-were-involved-1700-accidents-last-year#ixzz2FTLCnRX0

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Overtime Records Always, Always Generate Stories!

Here is yet another:

Patients with serious mental illness are treated at the Capital District Psychiatric Center in Albany. It’s just one of the facilities run by the State Office of Mental Health, also known as “OMH.”

The agency regulates, certifies and oversees 4500 programs across New York, from suicide prevention to counseling. But as NewsChannel 13 learned, the employees that get all that done, rack up a lot of overtime.

Records we obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show overtime expenses at OMH spiked nearly eight-million-dollars over the last two years, topping 82 million dollars…and taxpayers foot that bill.

Some of the agency’s employees made more than twice their base salary.

Just consider at what a secure care treatment aide at a Bronx OMH facility pulled down in overtime last year: nearly $116,000. That’s 240% over his base salary of $48,000.

Here in the Capital Region, a mental health therapy aide earned $88,000 in overtime on top of her annual salary of $43,000.

And a psychiatric nurse, earned nearly $80,000 in overtime over her base pay of nearly $56,000…

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FOI At Work: NY Officials Shared Draft Fracking Regs With Industry

Documents obtained by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show that bureaucrats within the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) granted the oil and gas industry premature access to highly controversial draft regulations for shale gas fracking in the state. New York placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for gas in order to evaluate the science on the risks posed to drinking water, air quality and the health of New York’s citizens and the environment.

The documents, obtained by EWG through New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the fracking industry received an unfair advantage thanks to DEC officials who provided detailed summaries of their proposed rules exclusively to oil and gas industry representatives. This allowed industry a six-week head start to lobby state officials to weaken the proposed standards before the public was granted access to the plan.

The Knight FOI Fund is SOOOOOOO Important!

A New York judge, ruling in a case supported by a Knight FOI Fund grant, has ordered disclosure of records sought by a Web publisher and a community activist regarding a volunteer fire company.

But in the same 13-page ruling, Warren County (NY) Supreme Court Judge David B. Krogmann held that many of the meetings of the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company are of a “social” or “private nature,” and are not subject to the state’s Open Meetings Law.

June Maxam, editor and publisher of the North Country Gazette, and Christine Hayes, a deputy zoning administrator and assistant assessor for the Town of Horicon, NY, who represented themselves in the lawsuit filed on Sept. 15, indicated that they planned to appeal the ruling.

Noting that they had represented themselves and therefore had no attorney bills, Judge Krogmann also declined to award the two women reimbursement for their legal fees and expenses.

As offset for the fee reimbursements Maxam and Hayes had sought, Krogmann ordered that copying charges for the records being sought be waived. Maxam disputes the judge’s finding that she and Hayes incurred no legal bills.

Open government advocates expressed dismay over portions of the ruling, although Maxam and Hayes will be getting the records that were at the heart of the legal case after Krogmann completes an in camera judicial review to allow redaction of exempt, personal or private information.

“If they choose to appeal as they say they will, I hope some member of the New York bar who believes in open government will step forward and aid these petitioners in their important legal battle,” said Kenneth F. Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC).

 

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