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‘File not found’: Open government group hits Hanover website

Submitted Photo The town of Hanover website, which has been under construction for at least four months, received a failing grade. Pictured is Todd Johnson, supervisor.

The town of Hanover’s website received a failing grade in a study by an open government advocacy organization.

The New York Coalition For Open Government’s report said that Hanover’s government meeting documents and minutes were not posted online, as required by the state Open Meetings Law.

The study focused on 18 towns across the state whose names start with the letter H. In Western New York, Hamburg was also studied.

Grades were made on a pass/fail basis. If meeting documents were on the towns’ websites, they passed. If not, they failed.

Five of the 18 towns got passing grades. Hamburg was one of them.

The report stated Hanover’s “meeting agendas, documents and minutes are not posted online. Names and email addresses for the town clerk (Tim Crino) or town board are not provided on the website.”

“We are currently building our website. It’s not complete,” Crino said Thursday. “We have a webmaster building it for us now. … We don’t even have control of it right now because the webmaster is adding and subtracting things at this point. Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll have control of it so we can start adding things to it.”

A look at the website Thursday morning brought up a “File Not Found” page under the header for postings and its town board subheadings. The town clerk’s page is said to be “under construction.”

The Open Meetings Law states that “If the agency in which a public body functions maintains a regularly and routinely updated website and utilizes a high speed internet connection, such minutes shall be posted on the website within two weeks from the date of such meeting.”

See WEBSITE, Page A3

Meeting agenda are supposed to be online at least 24 hours before the meeting is scheduled, according to the law.

The Coalition For Open Government stated, in a release sent by board president Paul Wolf, “There is no practicable reason as to why meeting documents cannot be scanned and posted online prior to a meeting.”

The coalition has four suggestions for supplementing the Open Meetings Law, which it called “weak and in need of improvement.” The suggestions are:

¯ Mandated Open Meetings Law training for elected officials.

¯ Creating an entity with enforcement power. Lawsuits by citizens are currently the only way to compel compliance with the law.

¯ More assistance for the public on potential violation complaints from the state Attorney General’s Office.

¯ Mandated payment of plaintiffs’ attorney fees by public bodies that lose Open Meetings lawsuits.

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