The Empire Center for Public Policy today filed a lawsuit to force the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to disclose payroll records for MTA police officers that it withheld in violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

The Empire Center in January requested the MTA’s payroll to make it publicly searchable on the Center’s government transparency website, SeeThroughNY.net. The MTA provided some pay records, but said it was withholding the names, titles and pay amounts for “certain MTA Police Officers.” The MTA argued disclosure of this information could “endanger the life or safety” of the individuals, an exception to FOIL disclosure allowed only in rare circumstances.

The Empire Center has been engaged in litigation since 2010 to prevent the New York City Police Pension Fund from withholding the names of pension recipients on the same basis.

“This is yet another example of a government agency trying to hide behind the Freedom of Information Law instead of following it,” said Tim Hoefer, president and CEO of the Empire Center. “The idea that the public shouldn’t be allowed to know how many police officers there are or how much they are paid is outrageous.”

Even without the missing data, the uniformed and civilian employees at the MTA’s police agency were the Authority’s highest-paid group of workers last year with total pay averaging $127,540.

The Empire Center has litigated several cases in recent years to protect the public’s right to know how government agencies spend money. The MTA paid the Empire Center’s legal costs to settle a 2015 lawsuit after repeatedly failing to respond to FOIL requests in a timely manner, as the law requires.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.

You may also like

How NY Hid the True Cost of 2019 Climate Law—And What Lawmakers Can Do About It

A new report from the Empire Center reveals hidden and rising costs, questionable assumptions and emerging transparency and practical issues resulting from New York’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Read More

2023 Local Government Pay Data Posted on SeeThroughNY

Pay records for more than 168,000 county, city, town, village and other public employees were added today to SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website. In addition to the searchable data, the Empire Center also released the updated edition of What They Make, its annual analysis of the state fiscal year 2023 payrolls for local governments outside New York City. Read More

More NY Pensions Hit $200K

The number of retirees eligible for $200,000+ pensions from the New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) reached 54 last year, according to new data posted on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website. Read More

Hochul Tells It Like It Is — Empire Center Responds to FY25 Budget Proposal

In response to Governor Hochul’s FY25 state budget presentation, Empire Center President & CEO Tim Hoefer issued the following reaction: "Governor Hochul is telling it like it is: New York’s  and spending are out of line with na Read More

2022-23 School Pay Records Added to SeeThroughNY

The data, covering all school districts outside NYC, show 75,280 school district employees were paid at least $100,000 last year, compared to 58,631 in 2017-18. Read More

Public Authority Payrolls Updated on SeeThroughNY

Payroll data detailing $6 billion in annual pay for more than 86,000 public employees at 383 agencies including the Thruway Authority, New York City Health + Hospitals and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) were added today to SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website. Read More

Snips, Strikes and Skaters: NY Borrows To Cover Its Pork Habit

New York state lawmakers and Governor Hochul since January have steered nearly $200 million in borrowed state funds outside the regular budget process to hundreds of pet projects, according to new data posted on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website. Read More

Port Authority Unloads Big Overtime for Cops

The 10 highest-paid employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) last year were police officers who collected more than $370,000 each, according to data posted today on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website. Read More