Five years ago, a taxpayer watchdog invoked the state Freedom of Information Law and started a court battle for access to the names of retired public employees who are collecting pensions, along with the amounts of their payments.
The litigation drags on, despite a ruling by New York’s highest court that the information is public. As it clearly is under the law. As it must be in order for the public to scrutinize New York’s vast, increasingly expensive public retirement systems.
In the latest round, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association have gotten a hearing before Brooklyn Acting Supreme Court Justice Peter Sweeney.
Their first request: They needed more time to file papers. And, sure enough, Sweeney gave them until Mar. 9 to submit their briefs.
Enough. The Empire Center for Public Policy has been seeking to post the data on an online public database called SeeThroughNY.net.
What Sweeney must recognize, what every judge who laid eyes on this case should long ago have recognized, is that the Freedom of Information Law is meaningless if the courts allow officials and other interested parties to conceal public records for five years.
The time and money expended on this case all but guarantees that only the most determined, well-financed members of the public will be willing to engage in such exhausting wars of attrition.