"This book is written to be accessible to anyone interested in government transparency, administrative law, or New York politics and life in general. Recommended."—Choice
"An engaging and informative read. Orzechowski deploys anecdotes skillfully, and he manages to bring the day-to-day workings of FOIL to life through a rich set of stories about requesters, reporters, public information officers, and the government officials whose records are sought."—David Pozen, Columbia School of Law
"For 40 years, New York’s citizens and journalists have been using the Freedom of Information Law to pry open government’s secrets and cast light on what elected officials are up to. In this highly readable account, Brett Orzechowski tells their story, recounting their battles, large and small, to make New York government more open and accountable. Much remains to be done, but this book will be an inspiration to those who will carry on the fight for transparency for the next 40 years."—David E. McCraw, vice president and deputy general counsel, the New York Times Company
The Freedom of Information Law allows any person to request and obtain, without explanation or justification, existing, identifiable, and unpublished governmental records, including documents, data, and video. Signed into law in New York in 1974, FOIL remains a powerful public panacea in unlocking information and maintaining vital transparency in our state government. Databases detailing public employee compensation, online viewing of highway department agreements and school district superintendents’ contracts, and text message exchanges—all disclosed and made public through FOIL requests—are now common, as the last decade has ushered in an increased demand for public information.
Orzechowski guides readers through the creation of the law and the concept of open government in the twenty-first century, offering a foundational understanding of how the legislation works, who is exempt, and how the law was created for every citizen of New York State. Dozens of perspectives–from state senators to a Pulitzer Prize winner to watchdog organizations—outline the impact of New York State’s law. Orzechowski examines the drafting of current legislation to strengthen the existing law and offers perspectives from those who are confronted with the real challenges of accessing public information every day: journalists, attorneys, and citizens. This exploration of FOIL, including narrative, scholarly examination, and how-to guides, serves as a tour of a law that continues to impact residents across the state.
Brett Orzechowski is assistant professor of management and media at Utica College. Previously, he served as CEO of The Connecticut Mirror, a public policy news organization covering Hartford and Washington, DC.
6 x 9, 344 pages