Cuomo Administration "editing" Archives?

Jul 25, 2012

What should have been a routine process to review papers in the New York State Archives relating to Andrew Cuomo's term as Attorney General, took an unexpected path for two newspaper reporters researching a story... Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports...

Jimmy Vielkind says he and colleague Jim Odato set out to simply review whatever records existed that were created by Andrew Cuomo when he was the State Attorney General, which by law go to the state archives.

The two Albany Times Union reporters wanted to take a look at the contents in 30 boxes of files stored at the archives, a branch of the State Education Department,  to get a broader picture of Cuomo's time as A.G. They filed legal requests under the freedom of information law.

Vielkind had gotten some information from the archives, but when he went back to check it, it had disappeared - Vielkind concluded from his experience that members of the governor's staff may go over the material before reporters arrive at the archives, review it after they leave, and remove what they don't think should be seen.

Vielkind believes that Governor Cuomo is carefully managing his image and that management is now apparently extending to the state archives. He notes that good government advocates have called for tougher laws on the books when it comes to archiving public records.

One Cuomo official reportedly questioned the Times Union's "fixation" on The Governor's records management: Vielkind believes what he and Odato encountered should serve as a lesson for all.   The Times Union also discovered Cuomo's schedule records as AG couldn't be foiled because they had been tossed out.

Governor Cuomo's office did not return calls asking for comment on transparency and the newspaper articles.

Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, says the Cuomo administration's approach was permissible under New York laws.  Freeman appeared Tuesday on WAMC's VoxPop.

The New York Times points out that the so-called "editing"  of the archived material comes at a time when the Governor is being much discussed as a 2016 presidential candidate.

The Cuomo administration's position is that The Times Union was working on a “manufactured story” and was trying to “create controversy.” The Governor's Office did not return calls for comment.