In a ruling that favored the Empire Center’s position, a state Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn today ordered the New York City Fire Pension Fund to release the names as well as pension amounts of its retirees.
The case began when two public employee unions, the Uniformed Fire Officers Association Local 854 and the Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94, sued the Fire Pension Fund to block the Empire Center’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the pension information. The lawsuit was filed just a few months after the May 2014 ruling by the state Court of Appeals in Empire Center v. New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, in which the court unanimously held that the public has the right to know the names as well as pension amounts of retired employees. However, the unions said firefighters’ names could be kept secret because disclosure would put their safety at risk.
In an 11-page opinion, Supreme Court Justice Peter P. Sweeney said the union failed to prove its claim, adding “[o]ne would think that if someone who had a grudge against a law enforcement officer, he or she would already know his or her name.”
“This is another win for openness,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “We hope the New York City Fire Pension Fund will promptly comply with Judge Sweeney’s order and provide us with the information we asked for nearly a year ago.”
“Taxpayers are on the hook for these pension payments, and they have a right to see who will be benefitting from these promises,” Hoefer said.
Once provided, the data will be available for public inspection on SeeThroughNY.net, the Empire Center’s transparency website.