It will be déjà vu all over again Monday for a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge, as lawyers for the city and a municipal pension fund argue that basic data about correction officer retirement payouts should be secret.
The session before Justice Peter Sweeney will be the latest legal stonewalling in cases that stretch back almost six years to the day that the Empire Center, a taxpayer watchdog, filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the names of public pensioners and their annual payments.
Seeking to establish a website, seethroughny.net, for public monitoring of spending, the center requested a broad range of expenditures. State and local governments turned over data on payrolls, contracts and even slush funds.
But some city pension boards refused — and some have continued to refuse even after the state’s highest court ruled unanimously in 2014 that names of pensioners and the cost of pensions are public.
In April, Sweeney decisively ordered the release of data on firefighter retirements — enabling the Empire Center to report that the average FDNY pension had topped $100,000 because most firefighters had left the job on disability, with eight retirees pulling down more than $200,000.
Sweeney’s order covered fire marshals, who had contended they deserved special confidentiality as law enforcement officers. Sweeney found that there is no exemption for law enforcement retirees. In any case, since the information sought by the Empire Center does not include addresses, Sweeney properly held there is no threat to safety in releasing only names and pension amounts.
Regardless, the city and the New York City Employee Retirement System are again asking Sweeney to carve out a disclosure exemption for correction officers on the ground that they are law enforcement officers.
Enough. New Yorkers are funding pensions at cost of billions of dollars and rising. As with any expenditure of public money, they are lawfully owed the right to see who’s getting how much.
Sweeney has clearly upheld that fundamental principle. Now he’ll have to do it one more time.
© 2015 New York Daily News