Denied: Freedom of Information Request to Westchester County on Youth Program Funding

Statement from Cora Greenberg, Executive Director of Westchester Children’s Association

The silence is deafening.

On February 19, my organization submitted a formal request under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to the Westchester County Executive. WCA asked for information on the process by which 2015 funding was allocated to nonprofit organizations that serve children and youth. This is not a complaint about which groups received, or didn’t receive, funding. It is a concern about the criteria and quality standards that the county uses in making allocation decisions.

While some items we requested were provided, others were denied. In response, we filed an appeal in early April. Now, by simply refusing to respond to that appeal, the county executive has run down the clock, effectively denying our FOIL petition.

We are dismayed by this, as recent suggestions made to the County Youth Bureau had been incorporated into a greatly improved Request for Proposal (RFP) document. Given this, we expected that a more transparent selection process would follow. That did not happen and, in fact, there was a significant delay in the county’s decision of which nonprofit programs would receive funding.

The delay caused disruption and harm to the programs, and more importantly, to the families and children who rely on these nonprofits to provided critical services. We are surprised, and can’t help but wonder at the motivation behind the county’s secrecy.

The county has an obligation to taxpayers to wisely allocate funds based on objective criteria. Our aim is to work with our elected officials to improve that process of allocating youth program funds. We are committed to ensuring a transparent, fair process that works best for Westchester’s kids, and we will not stop until it happens.

Cora Greenberg