When the Niagara Gazette submitted a Freedom of Information request seeking police records from the City of North Tonawanda, the city's attorney denied that request. When the Gazette submitted an appeal, he denied that, too.
But according to the book of New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, North Tonawanda City Attorney Luke Brown shouldn't have answered both the original request and denial. Further, the Gazette should have been provided with the name and contact information of the individual who is designated to handle FOIL appeals in the original denial letter.
"Denial of access shall be in writing stating the reason therefor and advising the person denied access of his or her right to appeal to the person or body designated to determine appeals, and that person or body shall be identified by name, title, business address and business telephone number," state law reads. "The records access officer shall not be the appeals officer."
The Gazette reached out to Brown for contact information for the city's FOIL appeals officer, but he did not immediately respond.
The initial request, submitted on Sept. 23, sought "all primary and secondary incident reports generated in response to a call for service at 417 North Ave., North Tonawanda, New York 14120 for the period from 00:00 to 24:00 Aug. 27, 2019."
Also requested were "all incident reports of any type generated by calls for service at 417 North Avenue, North Tonawanda, New York 14120 for the period Aug. 27, 2018 to Sept. 23, 2019."
In a response dated Sept. 27, Brown denied the request on the grounds that the relevant documents "have been 'compiled for law enforcement purposes' and their disclosure would 'interfere with law enforcement investigations and judicial proceedings."
On Oct. 3, the Niagara Gazette appealed Brown's decision to North Tonawanda Police Chief Roger Zgolak. But it was Brown who returned the appeal, again denying it, this time on the grounds that a verbal statement from Detective Capt. Thomas Krantz provided the "the 'bare bones' facts as required."
Krantz has acknowledged that there was a home invasion at the North Avenue address and that the two suspects are believed to have been specifically targeting the man who lived there. Krantz declined to say anything more about the incident.
Despite a lack official information from the North Tonawanda Police Department, a Niagara County Fire Wire recording of the dispatch channel used by law enforcement during the incident revealed other details about the crime.
In the recording, the resident of 417 North Ave. told police that two individuals, described as a black male and a white male, entered his home. The black male allegedly brandished a handgun and the victim told police the suspects restrained him with zip ties and put a bag over his head.