Judge Orders NYC to Release 9-1-1 Review
Judge Orders NYC to Release 9-1-1 Review lornagrl, flickr.
A civil court judge says New York City must release a consultant's review of the city's 911 system and its emergency response times. The report was commissioned after a massive blizzard in December 2010 stranded ambulances and backed up the emergency call system.
Saying his decision stemmed from a belief in open government and transparency, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur F. Engoron said that the taxpayer-funded consultant's report and all its drafts belong to the people of New York City.
"The city's not the only interest group here. And the city's not infallible," Engoron said after comparing the city's claim that the report should be private to President Richard Nixon's claims of executive privilege during the Watergate scandal.
Today's ruling forces the city to release every draft of the report to the firefighter's union. But Mayor Bloomberg said that's not practical.
"I don't know how any government would be able to function if you had to put out every single paper at the beginning of a study and all through the study," the Mayor said at a press conference Monday.
Lawyers for the city had argued the review was still in draft form.City officials claim an order to release the documents could have a chilling effect on city employees, who might become reluctant to freely express their opinions.
"If policymakers felt they could not give or receive blunt or candid feedback without it being publicized, the entire public would be at a detriment," said city lawyer Gail Mulligan.
Bloomberg says the city is exploring its legal options.
Last week, the Mayor questioned whether the current version of the report was accurate. City officials had said they planned to make the final version of the report public soon.
Under the judge's ruling, the documents must be released within seven days to the unions, which may then decide whether to submit them into evidence during a public arbitration hearing scheduled for April 20. There is no mandate forcing the Uniformed Fire Officers Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association to make the documents publicly available, and the unions' lawyers on Monday stopped short of promising to do so.
The unions contend that the city's recent overhaul of the 911 system has led to delays that have been concealed by a change in how the city calculates its fire response times. Administration officials say the overhaul has modernized an out-of-date system and eliminated inefficiencies, improving response times.