B y Dan King

After being threatened with a lawsuit, Whitehall school officials have complied with a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from a conservative think tank seeking teacher contracts.
The Empire Center threatened to sue Whitehall School District last week before the district turned over the public documents the think tank was seeking.
On July 1, the Empire Center sent out FOIL requests to about 700 school districts in New York, seeking copies of teacher contracts. Whitehall School District was one of 11 that didn’t acknowledge the FOIL request. A follow-up request was sent out July 25.
“As I understand it through my conversations with the district clerk, she had not received an initial FOIL but has indicated that she did receive a FOIL at the beginning of August,” said Superintendent Patrick Dee. “At the time of receipt, the district had not yet received a completed copy of the negotiated contract for the teachers.”
Dee said the issue has been “rectified” and that “processes are being put into place to ensure all FOILs are responded to in a timely manner moving forward.”
“Frankly the district had the responsibility to respond to the FOIL in a timely manner and neglected to do so,” he added.
Freedom of Information Law requires a government entity to acknowledge receipt of a request within five business days and to either provide or deny the information requested within 20 business days of the acknowledgement.
Moving forward, Dee said his goal is to make sure similar incidents don’t occur.
“This is an unfortunate incident, one that has not occurred in the past and one that shall not occur again,” he said. “Certainly the district had and has nothing to hide.”
He added that he is making it a goal to work with members of the public who are seeking public information from the district.
“It is our duty to be transparent and we will continue to strive for that transparency and trust from our community,” Dee said.
Dee’s first day on the job was July 1, the day the Empire Center said it sent out the first FOIL request.
The Empire Center confirmed last Thursday that it had indeed received the teacher contracts from Whitehall.

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