Lawsuit Alleges Backroom Deal With

By Ashlee Peck Premium


Reclaim the Records (RTR), a nonprofit group that secures public access to open records, is suing the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) for giving preferential treatment to a Freedom of Information Act request from for-profit genealogy website The lawsuit, pending in the Supreme Court of New York, Albany county, seeks information about potential “backroom dealing and preferential treatment” to expedite Ancestry’s access to the same state death index that RTR was in the process of requesting.

According to the RTR website, “We discovered that Ancestry had filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the identical records more than a year after our own request—but received their copies of the records first. Ancestry did not appear to have been constrained by any of the same requirements the NYS DOH had given, in writing, to our request.” Those requirements included covering the cost of digitization (initially set at $152,000), making a 50 percent down payment, waiting for a state archivist to inspect the condition of the microfiched records, securing state approval for the model of microfiche scanner and its hours and location of use, and others.

RTR also discovered that Ancestry’s FOIL request contains wording copied and pasted from RTR’s own request, filed a year earlier. Read more at their website.

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