NYC Firefighters Sue Over Public Records Violations

The president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of New York, IAFF Local 94 has filed suit against the City of New York and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito using the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to publically allege that she has been “stone-walling” consideration of a pension related resolution.

The complicated backdrop to the suit that was  filed last week by Local 94 President Stephen J. Cassidy, involves legislation pending at the state level to correct a problem with the pension benefits for certain FDNY members. The law has cleared all hurdles but awaits a resolution by the New York City Council before the state legislature can take action.

While ordinarily the political process is not subject to judicial scrutiny, Cassidy and the firefighters submitted several FOIL requests that, according to the complaint, have not been properly complied with. From the complaint:

  • [W]e have an outrageous situation whereby the will of the Governor of New York, the majority of the City Council, and the majority of the State Legislature is being frustrated by the unconscionable political maneuvering of Respondent Mark-Viverito in preventing a vote on the Home Rule.
  • Respondent Speaker Mark-Viverito has embarked upon a strategy to oppose the Abbate/Golden legislation by cynically preventing the operation of the democratic process and blocking any vote on the proposed Home Rule resolution.
  • The idea that the people of the City of New York cannot know who requested a Home Rule on a particular bill and the date of such request is more emblematic of a Council seeking to conceal truth behind a wall of mis-cited precedent and steadfast obstructionism- in essence, government at its worst.
  • This Council cannot be permitted to shroud the legislative process in secrecy. The date and name of the Councilperson who requested a Home Rule on the instant bill must be provided in an appropriately transparent legislative process.
  • The disclosure of that information cannot conceivably impede the Council’s deliberative process or invade a privileged communication between attorney and client.
  • In attempting to manipulate the Freedom of Information Law to deny access to public information, the Respondents denied my union members and the public the transparency they deserve and are afforded in a democratic nation.
  • The obvious disregard of their obligations under FOIL requires that Respondents be compelled not only to promptly supply the requested information but also to pay Petitioner’s attorney’s fees. Such remedy is not only appropriate, but fully contemplated by the relevant statute.

The suit seeks a court order compelling the City Council and Ms. Mark-Viverito to turn over the requested information and pay the Plaintiffs’ attorneys fees. The case is pending in the Supreme Court for the County of New York.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Cassidy v City of New York

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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