Thirty-eight business days have passed since FingerLakes1.com filed a Freedom of Information Law request with Ontario County, which still has gone unanswered.
The expansive FOIL request in size and scope seeks to gather email correspondences and other documents relating to the Ontario Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, Elm Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and FF Thompson Hospital as a part of FingerLakes1.com’s ongoing investigations into two nursing homes, which have accounted for 30 out of the 34 COVID-19 related deaths countywide.
But back in early July, Holly Adams, the county attorney advised Public Health Director Mary Beer to no longer answer questions regarding Ontario Center or Elm Manor.
Later on, Matthew Turetsky, a county attorney informed FingerLakes1.com that the FOIL request which had submitted on Tuesday, June 30th and officially recognized the following day could not be completed until “several months” later.
“Unfortunately, due to the large nature of the request, it requires significant time to locate all the relevant documents. After those documents are located, I will then have to go through them. They are still in the process of collecting these documents. Since that is the case, I still believe ‘the several months’ time estimation is still applicable,” Turetsky wrote on July 30th in an email response.
Although Turetsky asserts that the “several months” estimation is a fair one, that initial has changed.
But only three weeks later, FingerLakes1.com has finally received a definitive estimated deadline for completion after citing the county violating the state’s Committee on Open Government guidelines.
“As of earlier this week, I have finally received the documents related to your request but now have to go through each document to ensure the release of each document will not violate any state or federal law, as is required under FOIL. I anticipate this process to take 2-3 weeks,” Turetsky wrote in an email dated Friday, August 21st.
Meaning, FingerLakes1.com may receive the full FOIL request as early as September 4th and by no later than the following week on September 11th.
In accordance with the Your Right to Know booklet, any state or local municipality is supposed to issue an expected specific date for a FOIL request to be completed in its entirety.
Typically, the approximate deadline “cannot exceed 20 business days from the date of the acknowledgement of the receipt of a request,” according to the state’s Committee on Open Government.
As a result, Ontario County has failed to finish the FOIL request within twenty business days.
Instead, 38 days have elapsed, surpassing the ideal timeline.
“If it is determined that more than 20 business days will be needed to grant a request in whole or in part, the agency’s acknowledgment must explain the reason and provide a specific date within which it will grant a request in whole or in part. When a response is delayed beyond 20 business days, it must be reasonable in relation to the circumstances of the request,” reads the Your Right to Know booklet.
Still, the new FOIL response timeline is not definitive. The documents may not arrive within the next two to three weeks, according to Turetsky.
“I appreciate your patience in this matter and I ensure you we are working on your request. As I indicated above, I hope to have this completed within 2-3 weeks. If this is not the case, I will reach out to you regarding your request,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Health disclosed to FingerLakes1.com earlier this month that the two separately filed FOIL requests are expected to be resolved not until October 5th.