More Top Secret Public Documents
by Buck Quigley - posted 4:21 pm, May 23, 2008
In our ongoing effort to supply public information to the people, we are pleased to offer this PDF version of the meeting minutes of the Western New York Health System, a.k.a. Newco.
I began this pursuit with a FOIL request sent on April 25, 2008, asking for both the meeting minutes dating back to January 1, 2007, as well as a complete and detailed list of financial receipts and expenditures of the Western New York Health System, a.k.a. Newco, going back to the same date.
The initial response was this, received on April 29:
Dear Mr. Quigley:
As counsel to Western New York Health System (sometimes referred to as Newco), I have been asked to respond to your request of April 25, 2008 for certain information and documents under the Freedom of Information Law (Article 6-A of the Public Officers Law of New York State).
We regret that we cannot comply with your request as the Freedom of Information Law does not apply to Western New York which is a New York not-for-profit corporation and is neither a state, municipal nor public entity as defined by General Construction Law Section 66. Further, Western New York does not perform a governmental or proprietary function for New York State or for any municipality (see also General Construction Law Section 66).
We can also advise for the same reasons that Western New York is not subject to the Federal Freedom of Information Law. Robert Robert Andrew Wild,Esq. Garfunkel, Wild & Travis, P.C.
111 Great Neck Road, Suite 503
Great Neck, New York 11021
Phone: (516) 393-2222
Fax: (516) 466-5964
Which prompted me to reply, on May 2:
Are you aware that Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the NYS Committee on Open Government has offered an opinion specific to the Board of Directors of Western New York Health System and the 501c3 referred to as Newco? In his opinion, Freeman concludes: “In short, the Commissioner of Health has complete control over the membership of the Board of Directors of WNYHS. That being so, and in consideration of the judicial decisions cited earlier, I believe that the Board of Directors of WNYHS remains a “public body” required to comply with the Open Meetings Law, despite its status as a not-for- profit corporation.”
In light of this opinion from the Committee on Open Government, do you still contend that Newco is immune from FOIL requests?
810 Main St
Buffalo, NY 14202
Which elicited the following response, on May 2:
I am familiar with that opinion and respectfully diasgree. We have reviewed the matter including the opinion you refer to and believe as a matter of law that despite the appointment of the Board, WNY is neither a public agency nor does it perform a public function and therefore is not subject to FOIL.
To which I replied, on May 20:
Robert Gioia, Chairman of the Board, Western New York Health System, Inc.
Robert Andrew Wild, Esq., Garfunkel, Wild & Travis, P.C.
Re: Freedom of Information Law request
Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law, I hereby appeal your denial of access to records requested by me on April 25, 2008, via the attached e-mail delivered communications between myself and Robert Wild.
Please be advised that you have ten business days from the receipt of this appeal to provide reasons for your denial or to provide access to the records sought. In addition, it is your responsibility to immediately forward a copy of this appeal to the Committee on Open Government.
810 Main St
Buffalo, NY 14202
Which provoked the most recent response, received on May 20:
As I have explained in prior correspondence, Western N.Y is a private corporation and is neither a public agency nor does it fulfill a public purpose. As such, it is not subject to the New York Freedom of Information Law. Thus, the appeal you are seeking (which is a part of the Law)is not available.
You may call if you wish to discuss this further.
I’m disappointed to report that we’ve not yet received the financial records we were seeking, which would presumably let us know (among other things) how much Robert Wild is being paid to withhold public information from the people, but we have procured a copy of the meeting minutes—through another channel.
Since it seems clear that further discussion will prove fruitless, I instead encourage you to read the meeting minutes for yourself. Then decide if the business being discussed in secret should be information open to the public. Savor the comments contained in the document, like: “The group agreed that all individuals need to maintain confidentiality of Board efforts and limit community involvement to one of advisory capacity.”
The decisions being made behind closed doors by UB President John Simpson, Oishei Foundation President Robert Gioia, and Buffalo city court judge James McLeod, to name just a few—will affect the state of health care in Western New York for decades to come.
How can something so fundamental not be a matter of public interest and concern? You’ve read the stories in the Buffalo News, you’ve heard the sound bites on the radio, you’ve seen the interviews on TV.
Now go behind the scenes into the meeting rooms at UB and WNED and discover how attorney Robert Wild pushed for 501c3 incorporation last October, laying the groundwork for his aforementioned denial of FOIL requests. Read references to board retreats, communication strategy as it applies to the media, drafting of by-laws, MOUs, ongoing debate over name-changes, ad hoc physician advisory groups, NYS funding to cover expenses being incurred by both ECMCC and Kaleida Health in order to advance Newco, RFPs sent to several prominent local public relations firms to solicit help in sending the proper message to the community, a “Zero Tolerance” on “negative media campaigns” wherein Gioia would attempt to stop a letter from going to the Buffalo News, a draft of the reserved powers that Newco would have over Kaleida and ECMC once governance is fully implemented, and so much more!