Local Attorney Starting Buffalo Niagara Coalition For Open Government

BUFFALO, N.Y. --  Western New York attorney Paul Wolf, a longtime crusader for transparency in local government is now seeking a little help.

"There are other organizations around the country," Wolf said. "I've done some research. A lot of them are statewide organizations so I'm looking just to do kind of a regional Buffalo, Niagara County organization."

On Tuesday, he will lead the first meeting of the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government. He said about 20 people have already expressed interest including attorneys, academics and citizen activists. The coalition's initial priority will be educating citizens and elected officials.

"There are government officials who are supportive of open government and they should be recognized and there are some who are not and I'd like to do some shaming quite honestly," Wolf said.

Buffalo common council member Joe Golombek said when Wolf was the council chief of staff he often recommended against members conducting business in private. He believed Wolf's government and legal background make him the right person to lead the coalition.

"I think that it would be a very wise thing to do," Golombek said. "I think that a lot of elected officials don't necessarily understand all of the rudiments of government."

Wolf said whether four or 40 people show up next week, he plans to move forward because he believes the group can positively affect the community.

"Right now it will be solely a volunteer effort,' he said. "I'm going to look into getting foundation funding, if we can, to help pay for some things. We're not going to accept any government funding. I think that would be a conflict of interest."

Eventually, he hopes the coalition can work with law students throughout the University at Buffalo's new civil liberties transparency clinic.

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