State’s Expert on Open Government to Speak Locally

Citizens of Philipstown host Robert Freeman

By Kevin E. Foley

Freeman (Photo: NYSBA)

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government Committee, would like to see a good cross section of local residents attend his presentation on openness in government next week at the North Highlands Firehouse on Wednesday Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Citizens of Philipstown organization.

“I hope the crowd is diverse with members of the public and government officials from different levels. This way everybody hears the questions and the answers at the same time,” Freeman told The Paper in a recent interview.  Freeman is the state’s reigning expert on government’s obligation to make records available and proceedings open to the citizenry. He has served in his current capacity or in similar roles in state government for over 35 years.  The Open Access Committee is housed in the Department of State.

Freeman’s principal concerns are the state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings laws, which govern the content and conduct of government proceedings. He will speak and answer questions about citizen rights and government obligations. In his years of service Freeman said he and his colleagues have been responsible for thousands of opinions on situations involving the two laws.

Town and village government represent special challenges “because local government is closest to the people so there more direct accountability,” he said. But he also acknowledged the often volunteer and resource constrained nature of local government. “It’s often not about resistance to the law so much as not enough hours in the day.”