Freedom of Information request wasn’t appropriate

Published Jul 26, 2017 at 4:00pm

I have a low tolerance for bullies. It is certain that I have a low tolerance for bullies who seek to misuse elective office and public law for personal political advantage.

Ms. Barbara Calandra, Oneida County 12th District legislator, has involved my organization in her questionable tactics.

Rome Main Streets Alliance, Inc. (RMSA) received a letter from Ms. Calandra on July 11, 2017, addressed to our executive director, which invoked the Freedom of Information Law, Article 6 of the Public Officers Law to request “All finical [sic] records for Main St Alliance, Grant Money received and payroll.”

I find it curious that her request followed very closely on the petition deadline for her Democratic Party challenger, who happens to be our executive director, exercising his individual rights as a citizen to engage in political activity.

RMSA referred this request to our attorney for clarification. His analysis was that RMSA is not a governmental unit or agency as defined in the law, and that the request was not appropriate. Our attorney responded to Ms. Calandra on our behalf with this information.

Ms. Calandra could have confirmed this finding through competent legal consultation, but she chose to double-down by repeating her request on July 17. In this second letter she cited IRS regulations pertaining to not-for-profit organizations not mentioned in the earlier request. With respect to RMSA’s 2015 Form 990, that document has been provided to her.

Ms. Calandra furthermore sought to make an issue of the income that RMSA derives through its contracts with the City of Rome, stating that “RMSA is a not for profit organization/Agency which receives a substantial part of its funding from a governmental unit or the general public.” With the exception of the word “agency” that statement is true, as it is for most community-based non-profit organizations. Magnitude of support does not of itself create an agency relationship. These contracts are a significant portion of our revenue due to the fact that we have been rebuilding the organization for only eighteen months and have few other sources of income as yet.

RMSA is a contractor with the City of Rome in the same relationship as the contractors that built the Navigation Center or repaired the Erie Boulevard sewer line. We perform specific services for the benefit of the city and are paid for those services.

Those payments were discussed and approved by the Board of Estimate and Control in open meetings. However, specific compensation of RMSA staff is a confidential personnel matter between the RMSA Board of Directors and its employees, not public information.

— Jim Bintz,

7458 Fox Road,

Holland Patent,

volunteer treasurer,

Rome Main Streets Alliance