Monday, January 31, 2011

We Want Names!

The Empire Center for New York State Policy has announced their continued effort to gain access to names of more than 44,000 retired police officers collecting benefits from the New York City Police Pension Fund.
In response to a recent court ruling that would block the public release of those names, the Empire Center is appealing the decision.
“The names of public employees and retirees have always been regarded as public information under New York’s FOI law,” noted Tim Hoefer, director of the Albany-based Empire Center. “Because taxpayers foot the bill for the salaries of government workers and retirees, they have a right to know who they are and how much they are paid, just like any private company’s board of directors know who their employees are and how much they are paid. Access to this data also provides a means for scrutinizing spending on a case by case basis, adding a level of accountability previously unknown in government spending.”
The data was initially requested by Hoefer a year ago, but was denied on the basis that the Police Pension Fund was only required to release a list of individual pension amounts. This interpretation allowed them to withhold the names of the pension recipients, which prompted the Empire Center to file a legal challenge to this reasoning.
The challenge was rejected, with the courts originally siding with the Police Pension Fund, saying it could provide pension amounts while withholding the names of pension recipients. The Empire Center, represented by attorney David A. Schulz of Manhattan, has appealed the decision to the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court.
Pending a decision on the appeal, the Empire Center today posted a complete database of retirement allowances for 44,370 retired New York City police officers, minus the names withheld by the pension fund.
This is the Empire Center's interpretation of that data:
The data show the average pension of New York City police officers who retired in 2009 was $58,563, up 19 percent from the $49,066 average pension of officers retired in 2000. The amounts do not include an additional $12,000 “variable supplement” payment collected by retirees with regular service (non-disability) benefits. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed the elimination of this supplement, also known as the “Christmas bonus” because it is paid in December.

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