Thruway Authority refuses to release 'Snowvember' records

The New York State Thruway Authority refuses to comply with the state Freedom of Information Law and release public information regarding the "Snowvember" storm in 2014.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Shortly after the "Snowvember" 2014 storm that dumped feet of snow on Western New York and trapped dozens of people on Interstate 90, 2 On Your Side heard from Thruway Authority workers who said it could have been prevented.

Those workers, with whom 2 On Your Side talked separately but whose identities we agreed to protect, said local crews recommended the highway close more than 4 hours before it was actually shut down, and they pointed the finger at Albany. The late closure caused a mess, with drivers trapped for up to 36 hours.

2 On Your Side filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the Thruway Authority to get emails and other correspondence regarding the storm from decision-makers in Buffalo and Albany. Our initial request was in 2014, but at the demand of the Thruway, we amended it in January 2015.

More than a year later, the Thruway Authority still refuses to hand over those records, which 2 On Your Side believes should be made public. Workers have suggested the correspondence would show Albany officials ignored local advise.

There was also confusion in the days after the Thruway disaster, with Governor Andrew Cuomo claiming the Thruway was closed "in a timely manner" while the local division director admitted, with "hindsight", it should have been closed earlier. The emails we have requested could provide insight into what actually happened.

State law requires agencies, in this case the Thruway Authority, to provide requested information within 20 business days. If that's not possible, the Authority must explain why and must give a "date certain" that the information will be available. The Thruway Authority has failed to do both.

Nick Langworthy, chairman of the Erie County Republican Party, said this saga is emblematic of the secrecy within the current administration running Albany.

"The Governor seems to have about the least transparent administration probably in the history of this state," Langworthy said. "Everything is tightly controlled. The fact that they can't access emails for a year, there's something wrong with that."

2 On Your Side is now consulting with attorneys to see if legal action will be necessary. We reached out to the Thruway Authority and the Governor's office for comment. Both ignored us.


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