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Fredonia government makes grade for transparency

The village of Fredonia has received a B grade from the New York Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit and non-partisan organization that is dedicated to addressing transparency in government issues.

Recently the group took a look at villages throughout the state and their reporting habits on their websites and Fredonia was one of the random places selected.

“We take a look at 20 areas across the state, for this report we focused on village governments, we do it all across the state, there’s nine regions we looked at, we tried to do at least two from each region of the state,” Paul Wolf, president of the organization stated.

The criteria that the group focused on were four items in particular, the posting of all meeting minutes for 2020, the posting of meeting agendas, the posting of meeting documents with the agenda and are public comments allowed during the meeting.

Each item was weighted a bit differently, the agendas and meeting documents were given 35 points each as they are required under the New York State Open Meetings law, the other two were weighted at 15 points each.

Using grading criteria, volunteers looked at the websites for the chosen villages and found that two villages did great and received A’s, three received B’s, which is where Fredonia fell, five received D’s and 10 failed.

“Not a great performance for village governments from our view, 75% are violating the Open Meetings law, 35% did not post all of their meeting minutes, 35% didn’t post meeting agendas at all,” Wolf said. “We do make some recommendations in our report. We think that the Open Meetings law needs to be strengthened and improved. The other issue is there’s no entity in New York State that reviews compliance with the open meeting law. There’s no enforcement power, there’s only advisory opinions, the New York State Attorney General doesn’t seem to address these issues. Your only recourse is reports like these which will hopefully embarrass local officials to make some changes or to file a lawsuit.”

Fredonia’s summary in the report reads “2020 minutes not posted for February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, November 2nd and December 28th; Meeting agenda for February meeting posted; Meeting resolutions are posted but other documents not posted; Meetings held by video, public comments accepted by email which are read during the meeting.”

According to Wolf, failure to post meeting documents is in violation of the law.

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