The other shoe yet to drop in the multi-year, multi-million dollar Rye Golf Club staffing scandal deals with the expenses and revenues generated–or not–through Whitby Castle's events and catering operations.
The docs were requested as part of LD10580's original June 28th FOIL to the city, which was ignored by City Manager Pickup and his City Hall staff. We later learned–through our one and only polite and respectful on camera interview with city staff–that the June 28th request was never forwarded from the city clerk to the comptroller's office.
Ironically, former RGC GM Scott Yandrasevich is the only city official who responded to our original request by providing us with 18 months of invoicing from RM Staffing, among other partial records requested.
WHITBY CATERING & EVENTS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
A new light has been thrown upon the event and catering operations at Whitby Castle, thanks to the re-emergence of 2009 auditor's report that focused on Rye Golf Club and specifically mentioned deficiencies in the lack of a competitive biding process for staffing services, as well as, a lack of controls regarding the inventory items at the castle.
In a live address to City Manager Scott Pickup and Mayor Doug French's City Council on June 14, 2010 (view here), the auditor stated, "We also reported on having a little better handle on the inventory items at the golf club, especially at Whitby Castle and the catering operations," he said. "That's obviously a big area, there's a lot of money going through there–a lot of cash transactions going through that."
Yet, somehow, amongst the distraction of a threatening email sent to us by the mayor and the spectacle of Councilman Filippi spreading a nasty amount of disinformation–among other things–on public television, the City of Rye has avoided releasing these documents.
ECONOMIC EMBARGO PLACED ON PUBLIC RECORDS
When it became time to finally pony up the catering and event invoices in response to another request filed in December, rather than comply with the law, City Manager Pickup chose to violate the law in attempting to charge LD10580 close to $400 for the release of the catering invoices and his cell phone records.
The stated justification for the hundreds of dollars in charges by City Clerk Dawn Nodarse? Information needed to be redacted from documents.
The problem with that? NY State FOIL law does not permit an agency to charge for the redacting of information from documents.
NYS FOIL AUTHORITY: FEES FOR REDACTION NOT LAWFUL
We we emailed the city in this regard and included copies of advisory opinions written by Mr. Robert J. Freeman, the Executive Director of NY State's Committee on Open Government:
"A careful reading of FOIL, §87(1)(b), indicates that the fee for photocopies up to 9 by 14 inches is limited to 25 cents per photocopy (unless a different fee is prescribed by statute; a statute, according to the courts is an act of the State Legislature or Congress), regardless of the time needed to locate, retrieve, review, REDACT or delete."
"Based on the language of the statute, it is clear that the only fee that may be charged when a request involves photocopies of paper records up to nine by fourteen inches is a maximum of twenty five cents per photocopy; no additional fee may be charged for employee time, for search, redactions, etc."
"If your request involves photocopies from which deletions/redactions would be made, I do not believe that the quoted provision would apply; rather, the agency would be limited to charging a maximum of twenty-five cents per photocopy, and no fee for employee time could be assessed."
As of the time of this post, the city had not yet responded to our request that they obey FOIL law and release the documents sought–without the application of unlawful fees.
Of course, the continued stonewalling of public information, now through economic means, certainly doesn't help enhance the credibility of Mr. French and Mr. Pickup's administration–which is four months deep into a Bernie Madoff-esque investigation of Rye Golf Club.
Stay tuned. We will post Whitby Castle's catering and event proposals and invoices once we receive them from the city.