Citizen delving into hundred's of mayor's emails, letters and documents

LAKE GEORGE Village employees are spending hours gathering a vast number of documents requested by retired New York City detective Scott Walton under the states Freedom of Information Laws. While Walton sees it as an objective investigation into village government and the conduct of its mayor Robert Blais, Lake George village employees see it as a wasteful, fruitless exercise. A founder of the government-watchdog citizens group called Lake George Homeowners Association, Walton views himself as an objective investigator as he delves into the documents, letters and e-mails issued by Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais. Over the past several months, Walton has requested an enormous quantity of documents, emails and parking tickets in a campaign he said is an effort to bring openness to what he sees as a secretive village administration. Mayor Blais denies that any village business has been conducted in a covert fashion, and said he and his village board maintain principles of open government. The undertaking requires significant research and preparation on the part of employees of the mayors office and village clerks office, they said. I certainly have better things I could be doing, Lake George Village Clerk Darlene Gunther said in an annoyed tone of voice. I came in this weekend so I could have everything ready for Mr. Walton. Gunther said that so far, Walton and his group have submitted four FOIL requests. One of the requests was for access to all emails and correspondences which originated from the desk of Mayor Blais over the last three years. Other submissions included requests for all parking tickets voided by any village official from May to July 2008 and all village peace officer records from 2005 to 2007. Within that period 3,162 tickets had been issued in the village while only a dozen had been voided, Lake George Town Court Clerk Nancy Earl said. According to Gunther, the only official who would void a parking ticket would be the mayor. I have no idea what his (Waltons) motivations are, Gunther said. Walton and his citizens group have been highly critical of several of the villages recent undertakings. One of the hot-button issues for the group is the proposed consolidation of the village and town. Walton and the Association also disagree with the Gaslight Village restoration project and other village projects which often include partial state grant funding Walton said. The village spends money like crazy, Walton said. We are very encouraged by the countys decision to place a moratorium on conservation easements and land sell-offs. Walton said that he believes Blais makes decisions as mayor based on his own financial gain and the village tourist industry. Blais denied the allegations, and said his service as mayor was not for personal gain. He said that being mayor has cost him money, rather than yielding him financial benefits. Walton said that it is time for someone to consider the needs of the middle class, full-time residents. Many of these residents do not reside in the village, but are residents of the town. Blais countered that the decisions the board reached were accomplished with the best interests of all residents in mind. I am not sure what I am looking for, Walton said. Its just important for people to ask questions- they (village officials) vilify anyone who does so. Mayor Blais said that the village isnt mandated to respond to Waltons FOIL requests, because they are not specific enough. But Blais and other village officials have offered to open the records for Walton, but he would have to take the initiative to do much of the digging himself. Blais said that the increased work load has placed unnecessary pressure on his administrative staff. What he wants from our administration is impossible, Blais said. I am very willing to meet with their group and discuss their concerns. Gunther acknowledged that Walton has every right to request public information regarding mayoral conduct. However, the breadth and lack of specificity of Waltons requests may allow the village, under the FOIL laws, to ignore them. But Walton said his research was legitimate. I have absolutely no political motivations, Walton said. I believe we need someone to take an independent, unbiased look into these things.

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