John Murphy, director of the New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS) from 1990 to 2005, says disclosure of pension recipients has been routine in the past and is essential to guard against misuse of taxpayer money in the future. Reacting to yesterday’s post here on NYCERS’ stalling tactics in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Empire Center, Murphy sent us this email message — a sort of blank-verse backgrounder on the subject:
Every pension benefit must be adopted at an open meeting of the NYCERS board of trustees.
The resolution technically must identify the person receiving the pension and the amount of the pension.
In short, there is a public record of the pensioner and his/her benefit.
Circa 1994, NYCERS stopped printing the full list of names and amounts due to budget cuts, which were strangling us at that time.
But the detail must be made public on demand to insure against misappropriation of public funds.
Employees and retirees don’t like the public knowing their salaries and pensions, but it is absolutely necessary to prevent fraud.
In the past, “public record” meant a paper document that could be accessed at a public building.
Now, in the age of the Internet, “public” means really public, and all governments hate really public records.
Murphy, who blogs here, has sharply criticized his former agency over its failure to fully disclose documents that would explain a sharp increase in fees paid to private equity funds.
By the way, it’s now been more than 48 hours since the Empire Center’s director, Tim Hoefer, asked for minutes of the July 14 NYCERS board meeting at which, according to a spokesperson, “it was decided [by whom is still unclear] that a committee would be formed to establish a criteria based on safety concerns and unwarranted invasion of privacy for the release of names.” Still no answer from NYCERS.