July 19, 2016

nys-capitol.pngLICA Forced to File FOIL to Get Answers

To find out whether Long Island will actually get any of the millions of state highway and bridge money that has been promised, promoted and heralded as imminent by the Governor and legislative leaders, the Long Island Contractors’ Association (LICA) has been compelled to file an unprecedented Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request in Albany.

Marc Herbst, LICA’s Executive Director, stated, “We are now halfway through the highway construction season and no one in Albany is willing to state, reveal or even acknowledge what projects may be funded for Long Island. As a result, the industry can’t plan, the taxpayer doesn’t know if he or she has been shortchanged again and we don’t know whether the region’s roads will be given the dollars they need in order to be maintained. The idea that we need to file a Freedom of Information request to get beyond a Department of Transportation classified ad for an immediate upcoming project speaks volumes about how Long Island is viewed by the Governor and leaders of the Assembly and Senate.”

A lack of transparency

LICA’s leader said the taxpayer should be as concerned as his membership. “Contrary to a promise for greater transparency in government, our state leadership has not revealed the listing of projects to be funded through the state budget passed on April 1st. The industry was advised that a `memorandum of understanding’” identifying the projects would be available within a few weeks of the budget’s passage. That project list has not been unveiled and there is no evidence to suggest when it will be provided to the public.

LICA’s counsel, Richard B. Ziskin, Esq., has requested:

  • Any and all drafts and/or final editions of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch pertaining to a list of capital projects as well as funding and cost estimates, with regard to the adopted 2016-17 New York State Transportation Budget, including electronic (emails) pertaining to this topic.

  • Any and all documents, diaries and/or calendars listing any scheduled meetings between the Executive and Legislative Branch regarding the (MOU), the list of attendees, meeting minutes, and any correspondence, including electronic (emails) pertaining to this topic.

Labor is stunned

John Duffy, Business Manager and Treasurer of Local 138 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, explained, “In all the decades I have been involved in road and bridge construction on Long Island this is the first time our industry has ever been forced to file a FOIL to find the truth about a funding announcement that is now months old. It suggests the Governor and Albany leadership never had the dollars to promise in the first place or they are dividing up dollars without regard to one of the most heavily traveled portions of the state. Either way, it is the middle of summer and no one knows what projects are supposed to be given a green light in the year 2016.”

Herbst says the state has five days to respond to LICA’s request for information. “If the answer is `we haven’t decided on projects yet…we are still meeting about it…’ then we want to see the minutes from those meetings, who attended, what did they have to say and what was the conclusion before undertaking yet one more meeting to further postpone the launch of road and bridge projects.”

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