Mayor Alan Simon’s administration has failed to produce dozens of public documents under state law, creating a lack of transparency about salaries, meeting agendas, policy votes and how taxpayer money is spent.
During Simon’s first year in office in 2018, the village has missed deadlines or failed to provide The Journal News/lohud with agendas of government meetings, votes during those meetings, and minutes about who spoke during the sessions.
The Journal News/lohud made about a dozen requests for information, and follow-up reminders, with the village responding several times, but always in violation of the legal deadlines.
Simon and Village Clerk Diana Montgomery, who is the village’s public records officer, have not responded to requests for comment. Simon, a former judge, prosecutor and defense attorney, once worked with the state Freedom of Information Law as the Ramapo town attorney under two town supervisors.
The village lawyer, Amy Mele, acknowledged that The Journal News/lohud was entitled to the documents.
In addition, while the village Police Department has responded to requests for criminal reports, the response has been delayed for weeks because of a lack of approval from Village Hall.
READ the Freedom of Information Law
Agendas hard to find
The lack of transparency and adherence to state open-records laws has affected residents as well. Spring Valley activist Steven White is frustrated by the lack of village response to requests for information and notification of meeting agendas.
“How is the public supposed to participate if the topics are not available until the last minute?” White wrote in a February email to supporters and village officials. “How are zoning board or village board members able to prepare? What about residents who may want to attend both meetings? Does the village even have adequate meeting space to accommodate two public meetings at the same time.
“It appears that the village of Spring Valley is trying it’s best to make these public meetings into private ones,” White said.
Because not all residents attend government meetings, the prompt release of information and government decisions when requested becomes paramount to educating the public, advocates contend.
The public should have the opportunity to learn how village agencies deal with building development and financial issues, for instance, as the village is under state scrutiny for lack of enforcement of zoning laws and fire and safety codes, advocates say.
Read the full text of The Journal News story here.