Officials from Putnam County, supported by two state lawmakers, came together Thursday saying they will not release the names and addresses of legal, pistol permit holders in Putnam County, despite having been presented with a Freedom of Information Law request for the information. Their decision comes after The Journal News, a lower Hudson Valley newspaper, published such information from Rockland and Westchester Counties less than two weeks ago, using an online, interactive gun map. The issue has since become highly controversial.
Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant says he would rather protect the privacy and safety of county residents than comply with the request for pistol permit holder information.
New York State Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz supports the county clerk’s decision, and says the decision in a small, rural county like Putnam has national importance when it comes to protecting privacy.
The decision to withhold the requested information could end up being decided by a judge, as the information that Putnam officials are withholding is public information. Robert Freeman is the executive director of the New York Department of State Committee on Open Government.
By the way, he says the Committee has the authority only to offer advice and opinion.
As for not complying, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says:
Journal News President and Publisher Janet Hasson said, in an article in “The New York Times” that she believes the law is clear, that this is public information and the residents of Putnam County are entitled to see it. She added that she is troubled that county officials have apparently switched their position since the information was first requested. Putnam County Executive Odell says that is not the case, that Putnam officials never had the intention to release the information, that they were just taking their time and making sure they were presenting a unified front. It is not yet known whether Journal News officials will appeal Putnam’s decision, but if so, Putnam officials say they will take this as high as it could go. Here’s Putnam County Attorney Jennifer Bumgarner, with Odell:
Republican Greg Ball represents the 40th New York State Senate District, which includes portions of Westchester as well as Putnam County. He supports Putnam officials’ decision. As for a possible appeal by The Journal News, he says:
He says he will be introducing in the state senate legislation to protect such information from being publicly disseminated.
It is similar to legislation he had introduced in 2009, when he was an assemblyman. And now, Assemblyman Steve Katz, who represents District 94, which includes parts of Putnam and a piece of northern Westchester, says he will introduce such legislation in the Assembly.
He says he has bipartisan support, but declined to name those Democratic Assembly members who are on board.