PANYNJ "Freedom of Information" Administrator asks for more "specificity"

August 16, 2011
By Peter Samuel

The Port Authority NYNJ's press office hasn't been very responsive to requests for information lately so for a change we filed a "freedom of information" (FOI) request during the brouhaha over the big toll increase they proposed a week back. The two state governors claimed they were blindsided by the PANYNJ announcement but said they'd learned the reason was a threatened bond rating downgrade.

PANYNJ itself has been silent on the issue.

Our FOI request August 8 asked PANYNJ for copies of "internal memos, staff reports, (and) consultant reports leading up to or connected with the recently proposed toll increase," and "memos, reports on possible bond rating downgrade of PANYNJ," and "reports, presentations (to the board) on the need for the toll increase."

The PANYNJ's FOI Administrator responds today: "The (FOI) Policy provides for the copying or inspection of Port Authority records when such request contains sufficient information to identify the particular record(s) sought. As presently written your request cannot be processed under the Policy. You may wish to resubmit your request with more specificity."

More specificity?

How could we be more specific unless we had copies of the stuff already?

And then we wouldn't be filing an FOI request.

They've got the logical circle perfected there.

The FOI process at PANYNJ will release documents you know about with "specificity." If you already possess such documents then, sure, you can provide specifics of them. Just when you don't need an FOI office.

George Orwell would have loved that demonstration of a bureaucracy pretending openness while acting like a secret service.

Of course there may not be much "stuff" there on paper. One story going the rounds is that not only were the NY and NJ governors blindsided by the dramatic toll increase proposed, so were some senior people inside the PANYNJ.

Guys, stop playing these childish games. If your freedom of information policy is serious just send us what you have of memos and papers and presentations leading up to the proposed toll increase. Or else give up the pretense you're serious about freedom of information - editor.

NOTE: after we posted this and made a call to inquire about filing an appeal we were told they are "still considering" our FOI request and that the letter from the FOI administrator citing the need for more "specificity" had been "sent in error."

We take it they are reconsidering refusing our request without us filing a formal protest. For that we thank them, and wait their response.

TOLLROADSnews 2011-08-15  ADDITIONS 2011-08-17 11:50


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