In a consequential win for government transparency, the New York State Supreme Court has ordered a Long Island school district to comply with the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), following years of evasion. In addition to providing its teacher and superintendent contracts, Malverne Union Free School District has reimbursed the Empire Center for Public Policy’s legal expenses. The Center was represented by the nonprofit Government Justice Center in the matter.
The Empire Center, mainly through its SeeThroughNY.net database, works to give New Yorkers a clearer view of how their tax dollars are spent, including by providing access to collective bargaining agreements between local governments and their unionized employees.
Over the course of more than four months last year, the Malverne School District ignored requests and appeals for public records, continuing a pattern of failure to comply with FOIL requests since the beginning of 2016 and earlier. Only after the Government Justice Center filed an Article 78 challenge in December 2017 on behalf of the Empire Center did the district supply its teacher and superintendent contracts.
“This type of case is exactly why the Government Justice Center exists,” said executive director and general counsel Cameron Macdonald. “When government at any level refuses to be transparent or oversteps its bounds, it is often easier not to challenge it—but we’re here to hold it accountable.”
In response to the Empire Center’s latest FOIL request, Malverne responded promptly.
“Malverne’s timely response this time around is a welcome change from its years of disregard for FOIL. We’re glad to see this movement in the right direction and hope that other public agencies follow their lead,” said executive director Tim Hoefer. “Though it is unfortunate that it took a lawsuit to convince them to comply, this is exactly why we remain diligent in our work to keep government transparent and accountable to taxpayers every day.”
Click here to view the most recent Malverne School District teachers contract and superintendent contract, and explore all available contracts at SeeThroughNY.net.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit think tank dedicated to promoting policies to make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.
The Government Justice Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit legal center that provides pro-bono representation and legal services to protect the rights of New Yorkers in the face of improper action by state or local governments.