Today, a watchdog group will go to court seeking government information that it’s clearly entitled to have – a list of retired city police officers and their taxpayer-financed pensions.
This appeal of a wrongheaded lower-court ruling must be successful. The public has a right to know how its money is spent.
The Empire Center, the Albany wing of the Manhattan Institute, runs a website called SeeThroughNY.net – an invaluable database of state and city government payrolls, contracts, legislative slush funds and pensions.
It tracks every tax dollar spent on personnel, from Mayor Bloomberg’s buck-a-year salary to the pay of teachers and dogcatchers statewide.
The same goes for pensions – with one glaring exception: NYPD retirees.
The Empire Center requested the info from the Police Pension Fund under the Freedom of Information Law. After a lot of hemming and hawing, the fund, defended by city lawyers, turned over a list of payouts collected by 44,370 pensioners – minus the names.
When the center sued for the names, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Carol Huff ruled in the fund’s favor – cluelessly suggesting “the common perception that retired police officers possess firearms” meant that “the possibility of such retirees becoming the target of burglaries is significant.”
Never mind that current officers’ salaries are already online. Or that pension data for every other retiree – including every other retired cop in the state – are already posted.
Huff’s decision sets a terrible precedent. Would upstate retired police officers demand similar pension secrecy? What about retired correction officers?
The information belongs to the public, your honors. Turn it over.