The Empire Center for Public Policy this week filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the state Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to share public payroll records on a timely basis, as required by the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
“For years, the MTA’s operating units have delayed their responses to our FOIL requests,” said Timothy Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “We hope the court will force the MTA to stop hitting the brakes and start following the law.”
Hoefer said the legal action comes after more than four months of delays and missed deadlines by the MTA and its subsidiaries in response to the Empire Center’s request for the agencies’ payrolls. While some MTA units provided payroll records after lengthy delays, the MTA’s New York City Transit system failed to answer the Empire Center’s “appeal of denial,” the last avenue of recourse before legal action.
For the past six years, the Empire Center has been posting and updating annual MTA payroll records in a searchable database format at its government transparency website, SeeThroughNY.net. In its court petition, the Empire Center said the MTA had “consistently delayed providing the requested data.” It said this “appears to be part of a pattern of conduct.”
In addition to seeking prompt release of the requested payroll data, the Empire Center hopes to discourage future FOIL compliance delays by asking the court to order the MTA to pay “reasonable attorneys fees and costs” associated with the filing of the lawsuit.
The Empire Center is a non-partisan, non-profit, independent think tank located in Albany. In 2014, the Center won a landmark transparency case in Empire Center v. Teachers’ Retirement Systems that strongly reaffirmed the public’s right know the names of public pension recipients as well as the benefit amounts for which they qualify.