NYRA got smacked down hard by the Gaming Commission for the incident at last week's board meeting, when several members of the press who had not RSVP'd were barred from entering. Until NYRA's Director of Comm/Media Relations John Durso Jr. changed his mind and let them in. I'm thinking it probably wasn't a great idea to mess with James Odato. He took his victory lap in the Capitol Confidential blog on Monday, embedding the letter from Franchise Oversight Board Chairperson Rob Williams to Chris Kay.
Article 7 of the Public Officers Law—Open Meetings Law—does not grant any governmental organization the right to bar admittance to members of the public simply for failing to provide prior notice of their intent to attend.Perhaps Durso isn't familiar with this particular law. He should however be familiar with a similar one in New Jersey. As the Senior Director and Chief Spokesperson for NJ Transit last year, Durso was involved with a request under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act for information on the agency's planning for Sandy. NJ Transit has come under fire for leaving over a quarter of its fleet in low-lying areas near the coast. You can imagine what happened to the trains. WNYC published a detailed exposé of the matter last year. In response to the demand by the press, NJ Transit released a four page document entitled NJ TRANSIT Rail Operations Hurricane Plans. Everything but the title was redacted for what the agency claimed was "security reasons." (I kid you not. They really did that.) So, leave it to John Durso to explain.
Open Meetings Law is liberally construed to ensure the public has appropriate access to its government. NYRA is not exempt from these requirements, and in fact resolved on December 12, 2012 to “conduct business subject to compliance with the NYS Open Meetings Law and NYS Freedom of Information Law.”
“Recent events including the uncovering of an Al Qaeda-led terrorist plot targeting rail service reinforces why NJ TRANSIT will not disclose sensitive information that could potentially undermine the security of our transit infrastructure, our customers or our employees."Well, at least he didn't accuse Odato of being associated with ISIS. Perhaps that's some progress.
- I'm sorry to persist with the attendance thing, I really am. But, if you're going to pad attendance figures, it at least has to pass the laugh test. The announced crowd of 20,639 on the Monday after arguably the least attractive weekend of the meet does not pass the laugh test. The attendance was 15,000+ on each of the last two comparable Mondays, both on good weather days as well. If they're adding in 6,370, I'd say it was about the same this year. We're not stupid. We've been going to Saratoga for years/decades; many of us can correctly state the attendance within a thousand on most days. I wasn't even there on Monday, and I can tell you with certainty that there weren't nearly 20,639 in the track. That number is likely inflated by some 30%. Not only does that not pass the laugh test, it inspires Tweets like this:
Behind the scenes at the NYRA as Saratoga attendance figure almost ready. pic.twitter.com/bLIBP34k7IAnd that's why I'm saying that it just does not benefit NYRA to persist in this charade. They'll take a bigger PR hit than they would if attendance was down this year. We would all understand why crowds might be down a percentage point or two (not at all to say that it is). We can't understand this kind of ludicrous manipulation of the numbers.
— Dan Needham (@thorotrends) August 12, 2014