Empire Center’s efforts pay off for taxpayers … again

| The Daily Gazette

I’ve said this numerous times: New York state residents are blessed to have an organization like the Empire Center for Public Policy working on their side, particularly when it comes to its tireless efforts to push for government transparency and for the volumes of public information it makes easily available on its website.

The Empire Center this week won a particularly hard, lengthy battle to compel the New York City Employee Retirement System to release the full pension records of its retired members. The information on pensions is vital because your tax dollars are paying to support these government retirees. You have a right to know how that money is spent, who’s getting it and how much they’re getting.

In New York City, the records sought by the Empire Center involved nearly 137,700 retirees working in the areas of health, transit, corrections, sanitation and housing.

Among the disclosures was a pension awarded to Eugene Egan, a retired 60-year employee of the city’s sanitation department, who is taking home more than $285,000 a year in pension benefits following his retirement in 2015. His peak salary during his career was just over $128,000, according to the Empire Center, which shows you just how generous the city is being toward someone who isn’t even working any longer.

It took four years of effort that included the filing of many Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, a lawsuit (Article 78) and appeals for the Empire Center to obtain information that rightfully belongs to all of us as taxpaying citizens and should have been released without a fight.

This is the kind of uphill battle that we all face in keeping government honest and accountable, and the Empire Center is on the front lines waging these battles for us.

You can see the new pension records — as well as information about the compensation of thousands of other public employees — including state workers, public school teachers and elected and appointed government officials — by visiting the Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY website.

The menu in the blue bar at the top of the web page allows citizens to easily search for records under categories such as payrolls, pensions, contracts, expenditures, the state budget and teacher pay. Each are easily searchable by various means (highest-to-lowest, community or district, name …)

It’s often very difficult, time-consuming and expensive for ordinary citizens to obtain this kind of information. And certainly, no one is displaying this information for the public in such an easy-to-research manner. We encourage you to visit the website and check out the information that’s on there. You might be surprised, and you’ll probably be outraged.

For more information on the Empire Center and its efforts, visit its website, www.empirecenter.org.

Thanks to the Empire Center for its efforts at keeping New York government open and for protecting your right to know.