Monday, April 13, 2015

An entity claiming that it is not subject to the State’s Freedom of Information Law has the burden to provide documentary evidence that conclusively establishes such a defense as a matter of law


An entity claiming that it is not subject to the State’s Freedom of Information Law has the burden to provide documentary evidence that conclusively establishes such a defense as a matter of law
Nassau Community Coll. Fedn. of Teachers, Local 3150 v Nassau Community Coll., 2015 NY Slip Op 02972, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Nassau County Community College Foundation [Foundation] denied Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, Local 3150’s [Local 3150] request for certain information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law [FOIL], Public Officers Law, Article 6. Foundation contended that it “is not a governmental agency and, therefore, is not subject to FOIL”.

In response to Local 3150’s Article 78 petition, Foundation moved to dismiss the petition insofar as it was  asserted against it. Supreme Court granted Foundation's motion but the Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s ruling and reinstated Local 3050’s petition insofar as asserted against the Foundation.

What is an “agency?” The Appellate Division said that an "agency" is "any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature," citing Public Officers Law §86[3].

The court then noted that Nassau Community College [College] is a public college, chartered under Education Law Article 126, sponsored and partially funded by Nassau County, and Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation created in 1979 to support the College's mission.

The Appellate Division explained that FOIL "was enacted to promote open government and public accountability and imposes a broad duty on government to make its records available to the public" and all "public agencies" are subject to FOIL,” citing Perez v City University of New York, 5 NY3d 522.

As to Foundation’s motion to dismiss Local 3150’s petition with respect to it, the Appellate Division said that Foundation had the burden to provide documentary evidence that "utterly refute[d] [Local 3150’s] factual allegations, conclusively establishing a defense as a matter of law.

Foundation failed to meet this burden, said the court, as it did not establish that it lacks the attributes of a public entity. Accordingly, Foundation was deemed a public agency and Supreme Court should have denied Foundation’s motion to dismiss Local 3150’s petition insofar as asserted against it.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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