Tuesday, November 15, 2022

APA case spurs free speech question

On July 28, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Lake Placid ahead of the 2023 FISU World University Games. Photo by Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Last week, voters approved a $4.2 billion environmental bond act and kept Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul in office. We took a look at how voters within the Blue Line cast their ballots. Adirondack Park residents heavily favored Hochul’s competition, Republican Lee Zeldin. They also had mixed voting on the bond act.

You can read our story here.

The Adirondack Park Agency is meeting this Thursday. Commissioners will hear background information from staff about wild forest roads, shoreline restrictions and large-scale subdivisions. There will also be a presentation about a draft unit management plan for the Sharp Bridge Campground & Day Use Area in North Hudson. You can view the agenda here.

Speaking of wild forest roads, we also had a story last week about a former APA staff member, who attempted to submit public comments on the matter, but the agency rejected them. The APA says Walter Linck’s comments including “confidential information.” Linck has been in touch with the state’s new ethics commission and hopes to get a resolution soon. You can read more about that here.

Meanwhile, Adirondack Wild: Friends of the Forest Preserve has filed for records related to wild forest roads, too. The nonprofit organization’s request was denied, as was its appeal. In a news release, Adirondack Wild Managing Partner David Gibson said: “The APA is not only denying us certain documents but may be depriving its own agency members of the same information which could inform their current deliberations about ‘no material increase.’  For a state agency to rely on a technical exemption to FOIL and withhold, in effect to hide past documents that could inform current policy decisions is not being transparent, it’s being secretive about a matter of importance to the Adirondack Forest Preserve.”

In the agency’s appeal determination, APA Counsel Chris Cooper said APA could and would withhold the records because they are “draft, non-final policies and determinations” and therefore “may still be properly withheld as deliberative materials, because they are not the final policy governing the agency’s actions.” Cooper quoted from two court cases where deliberative materials were withheld. The point of the “exception is to permit people within an agency to exchange opinions, advice and criticism freely and frankly, without the chilling prospect of public disclosure,” he noted.

Gibson told the Explorer he has not made a decision yet if his organization will sue.

Photo: On July 28, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Lake Placid ahead of the 2023 FISU World University Games. Photo by Darren McGee/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Editor’s note: This first appeared in Gwen’s weekly “Adirondack Report” newsletter. Click here to sign up.

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Gwen is the environmental policy reporter for Adirondack Explorer.

One Response

  1. Todd Eastman says:

    An agency is only as effective and legitimate as its transparency of process…😎

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