Show Me the E-mails: Pushing for Openness and Transparency in City Government
By Councilman Joe Sack
On July 21st, I specifically asked the city manager for information about RM Staffing and Studio Y, since I had heard rumors that these entities might do business with Rye Golf Club, and that the golf club manager might have a connection to these entities. Unfortunately, the city manager did not respond to my request at all. Instead, the mayor – unsolicited – informed me that he was handling the matter; he otherwise declined to provide any other information regarding my inquiry at the time.
On or about September 12th, thanks to the efforts of Leon Sculti, details emerged indicating that RM Staffing did indeed do work for the golf club, that the golf club manager did indeed have a relationship with this entity, and that there were questions regarding bills sent to the golf club by RM Staffing.
On October 1st, following the emergence of these details and subsequent additional details uncovered by Leon, the mayor claimed that he and the city manager had actually been leading an investigation of the matter for a while. However, when I specifically asked the mayor and city manager for details of that investigation, I again did not get a response.
On November 20th, still having received no direct answer regarding what exactly the mayor was handling back in July, or regarding the investigation that the mayor and city manager had been leading for a while as of October 1st, I sent a request to the city manager – with a copy to the mayor – for all e-mails between the city manager and the mayor. I have not yet received the e-mails.
As a duly elected member of the council, with responsibility for oversight of the city manager pursuant to the city charter, why shouldn’t I be able to see the city manager’s e-mails, especially under the circumstances above? If we’ve learned any lessons from recent events, it’s that we’ve got to continue to ask tough questions, and demand straight answers. That’s the only way we’re going to get to the bottom of things, and restore the public’s confidence in what we do.
Notably, I was compelled and advised to turn over my own e-mails with the city manager and mayor in response to a recent FOIL request. So why should my request now be such a big deal? Also, the mayor has recently made a number of requests to a member of the golf club commission, pointedly asking him when he first learned about the issues at the golf club and what he did with that knowledge. So why would the mayor now object to providing similar information about himself?
We need to move forward, but before we move forward, we need to find out where we’ve been, and take appropriate action to make sure that any missteps are addressed, and not repeated. We need openness and transparency.
I previously congratulated my colleagues on the council for taking a big stride in hiring Brune & Richard on October 18th to help us uncover the unknowns at Rye Golf Club. Those efforts are continuing even as I write this. But we need to help ourselves too. Although it may not be a common occurrence for a council member to seek the city manager’s e-mails, and although this request may cause some to experience hard feelings in the short term, keeping the e-mails under wraps will not be good and healthy for the city in the long run.
It is my sincere hope that the city manager, as well as the mayor, disclose the e-mails without further delay.
Joseph A. Sack, Esq.