The Daily Messenger on Tuesday issued a FOIL request to the city seeking the identity of the officer involved in the Oct. 4 shooting incident. The newspaper has now retained legal counsel after the city declined to provide the identity despite a state public records expert saying it is "clearly public, clearly public, clearly public."

CANANDAIGUA — One day after a Freedom of Information Law request and eight days after the Oct. 4 shooting that claimed the life of an off-duty parole officer, the identity of the Canandaigua Police Department officer involved still has not been released to the public.

Nancy Abdallah, the city's clerk-treasurer and designated FOIL officer, said Wednesday afternoon that no additional information would be immediately forthcoming in response to the FOIL request made Tuesday by the Daily Messenger for the identity of "those officers of the Canandaigua City Police Department who have been placed on administrative leave on or after Oct. 4, 2017."

When pressed further as to the reason the identity had not yet been released or for an expected timetable for its release, Abdallah said, "I have no further information for you."

Following the city's continued refusal to provide the public information being sought, the Daily Messenger has retained the legal representation of Greenberg Traurig LLP, an Albany-based firm that provides counsel to GateHouse Media, parent company of the Daily Messenger.

The firm today sent the city a letter demanding the immediate release of the records being sought in the newspaper's FOIL request.

"As set forth below, the City’s inexplicable delay here is unreasonable as a matter of law, particularly given the extraordinarily narrow scope of the Newspaper’s October 10, 2017, FOIL request," states the letter, signed by Michael J. Grygiel, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig.

Under the Freedom of Information Law, an agency is required to respond within five business days of receipt of a request. Abdallah initially responded Tuesday, notifying the paper that its request would be granted or denied within 20 business days of receipt.

"As a surrogate for the public it serves throughout the Ontario County vicinity, the Daily Messenger respectfully requests that the City reconsider its legally insupportable decision to defer a decision on public access for twenty business days, and grant immediate disclosure of the records the Newspaper has requested," continues the letter from Grygiel.

The Daily Messenger submitted its FOIL request only after first consulting with Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government and the state's preeminent expert on public records. When asked Tuesday what he thought of the newspaper's pursuit of the officer's identity, he offered this assessment: "Clearly public, clearly public, clearly public."

Freeman emphatically said that the city had no reasonable or legal reason for not releasing the officer's identity, pointing to the legislative intent stated in the beginning of the Freedom of Information Law, which states that "when an item within a record is public and the record is easy to locate, there is no valid reason for delaying disclosure."

“There may be other elements of the record that can be held, but the mere identity of the officer acting in the performance of his duties would be public, even though there is a possibility that other aspects of the record may be withheld,” Freeman also said.

Freeman suggested some of the wording the Daily Messenger used in its FOIL request, which stated that "the state's highest court has determined that attendance records regarding public employees, including police officers, are available to the public with the category of leave time claimed or used."

Repeated verbal requests for the name of the officer were denied by city officials in the days following the shooting that claimed the life of Sandy Guardiola, an off-duty parole officer living at Pinnacle North Apartments who engaged in an exchange of gunfire with the police officer. The police officer, who was not harmed, was placed on administrative leave pending progression of the multi-agency investigation, now being directed by New York State Police.

Regarding the newspaper's request that there be no further delays in releasing the officer's identity, Grygiel states in his letter that "the element of time is not unimportant if press coverage is to fulfill its traditional function of bringing news to the public promptly.”

"Therefore, with each passing day the news value of the records diminishes," Grygiel continues, "and the right of the press to report on matters of significant public interest, as well as the public’s right to know about governmental decision-making, remains suppressed."

Grygiel further states that if The Daily Messenger is required to commence formal litigation to obtain FOIL disclosure of the administrative leave records, "the Newspaper will pursue the recovery of its legal costs."

Daily Messenger reporter Denise Champagne contributed to this report.