A landmark win for transparency

by E.J. McMahon |  | NY Torch

court_of_appeals_bldgThe state Court of Appeals today ruled, 6-0, in favor of the Empire Center’s challenge of lower court decisions that allowed the New York State and New York City Teachers Retirement Systems (NYSTRS and NYCTRS, respectively) to keep secret the names of retired employees receiving pensions.  See the full opinion by Judge Robert Smith here.

Our immediate reaction, from Timothy Hoefer, Empire Center’s executive director:

This is a huge win for the public’s right to know. The Court agreed with our argument that the state Freedom of Information Law actually means what it very clearly says. Taxpayers are primarily responsible for funding public pensions, and taxpayers ultimately back up the state constitutional guarantee that public pension benefits won’t be reduced. That’s why taxpayers are entitled to know who is getting how much from our public pension systems.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, had this to say:

It is gratifying that the Court of Appeals interpreted the law sensibly and in a manner that enhances the public’s right to know, particularly in relation to the expenditure of taxpayers money.

More background on the case can be found here.

Disclosure of retiree names was backed in amicus briefs filed with the Court of Appeals by news media organization and by the Citizens Union and Citizens Budget Commission. Briefs in support of keeping secret retiree names were filed by two of the state’s largest unions, New York State United Teachers and the Public Employees Federation.

- E.J. McMahon is the President at the Empire Center for Public Policy.