Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo Named Honorary N.y. Chairman Of Sunshine Week

ALBANY, NY (March 19, 2008) – The New York Press Association has named Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo the Honorary New York State Chairman of Sunshine Week in recognition of his ongoing advocacy and initiatives for openness and transparency in government.

This marks the first time ever that an elected official has been named Honorary Chair by the group, which represents hundreds of community newspapers and ethnic press from across the state. Attorney General Cuomo will also deliver the keynote address at the New York Press Association’s annual convention in Albany in April.

“I am honored to join with the New York Press Association during Sunshine Week to underscore the importance of transparency and accountability throughout government,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “I believe that the success of representative government hinges on the ‘informed consent’ of the electorate.  By definition, government is only as good as the trust citizens’ place in it. That trust can be earned when information that can empower the citizenry is pulled from the shadows and made open and accessible. My office will continue working toward making government more accountable and restoring public integrity across the state.”

Michelle Rea, Executive Director of the New York Press Association and Coordinator for New York State’s role in Sunshine Week, said “The community newspapers that comprise the New York Press Association are staunch supporters of the people’s right to know.  The Attorney General’s Project Sunlight Web site empowers ordinary people by giving them access to important information about actions and decisions made on their behalf by their elected officials.  Informed citizens are educated voters, who help to build strong communities by encouraging good government.  The goal of Sunshine Week is to teach members of the public how to access public information and to encourage them to participate in public conversations about the things that affect their daily lives. The Attorney General not only talks the talk, he walks the walk, setting a good example for all public officials. ”

This year’s national Sunshine Week is taking place March 16-22. Launched in 2005 and led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE), Sunshine Week is a national, non-partisan initiative designed to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.

According to ASNE, Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger. Across the country, the concept of Sunshine Week has provided the setting for open government series and profiles in newspapers, public forums, classroom activities, online packages, and more.

Since taking office in 2007, Attorney General Cuomo’s role in restoring public integrity and transparency in state government has included:

  • Creating “Project Sunlight,” a Website that combines currently unconnected state databases into one easy-to-search website (www.sunlightny.com). The website allows users to simultaneously search six important databases: campaign finance, lobbying, state contracts, member items, corporations, and charities.  In addition, “Project Sunlight” offers pre-designed searches to allow users to search the databases through topic areas: introduced legislation, lawmakers’ names and lobbyists. 
  • Reforming the process of community project fund contracting (“Member Items”) by adding Disclosure and Accountability Certifications to member item contracts for not-for-profit and for-profit corporations to ensure they serve a legitimate public purpose
  • A Legal opinion by the Attorney General ending the practice of New York State Authorities paying for health benefits and other perks for board members who are not to be compensated
  • Legal opinion to stop public authorities from contributing public funds to programs and events that were not part of the authorities’ underlying missions.
  • An ongoing effort by Attorney General Cuomo to prosecute those who abuse their positions in state government, including:
    • The arrest of a New York State Department of Education employee who allegedly misused stole hundreds of historic documents and artifacts belonging to the State Library
    • Convicting New York Power Authority’s Deputy Counsel for defrauding the state.
    • Convicting a former high-level State Office of Mental Health (OMH) employee for stealing $1.2 million from taxpayers to support his own lavish lifestyle.
    • Convicting a former New York State Department of Taxation and Finance (NYSDTF) employee who misused his position to access confidential computerized tax information of a company to benefit his outside law practice.
    • Indicting the former Superintendent of the 69th Regiment Armory, a national historic landmark, on extortion and bribery charges.

This year’s Sunshine Week in New York features several events, including a March 18 seminar at CUNY’s School of Journalism in Manhattan. The program included a presentation on Project Sunlight by the Attorney General’s Special Advisor on Policy and Public Integrity, Blair Horner, and a workshop on the Freedom of Information Law, open government issues, making FOI requests, etc. by Bob Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government.

The New York Press Association is providing the following media tools to promote the week:Print and Web ads in both English and Spanish are available on the Sunshine Week Web site, www.sunshineweek.org. The ads may be used by any participant free of charge now, during Sunshine Week (March 16-22), and through the November 2008 elections.

  • Members of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists have donated editorial cartoons for use during Sunshine Week. Additional cartoons will be posted as they are received, so be sure to check back for updates. The cartoons may be used by any participant free of charge in the context of his/her Sunshine Week coverage and/or activities.  The cartoons may be found at http://www.sunshineweek.org/sunshineweek/toolkits
  • Sunshine Week 2008 opinion columns and author photos may be used by any participant free of charge during Sunshine Week, March 16-22. Columns will be posted continuously as Sunshine Week nears, at http://www.sunshineweek.org/sunshineweek/toolkits

     “I thank the New York Press Association and its members for coordinating this week in New York and for inviting me and my office to participate,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “I urge all public officials to embrace Sunshine Week not only with the rhetoric of the support of openness, but with the reality of specific plans to break down the barriers that exist to the public’s access to governmental decisions.”

    About the New York Press Association:

    Established in 1853, the New York Press Association is the trade organization representing the community newspapers of New York State, with more than 800 newspapers serving their communities across New York State reaching more than 13.5 million households weekly. NYPA’s role in protecting and serving the interests of community newspapers includes coordinating training, networking, and lobbying efforts, sponsoring a Better Newspaper Contest, providing a Libel Hotline that put members in touch with an attorney 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and generating revenue for the newspapers by providing newspaper advertising placement services for display and classified advertising clients. www.nynewspapers.com

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