New York State's Assembly Introduces Legislation Aimed at Limiting Government Transparency

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The Law Office of Jeffrey Alfano Launches Providing Online Public Access To Documents Filed In the Case Challenging New York City's Municipal ID Law

Legislation retroactively affecting the public's right to access information about government programs is dubious, to say the least.

De Blasio ally and Bronx Assembly Member Marcos Crespo introduces a first of its kind legislation seeking to limit public access to government records. Bill number A. 4882 seeks an exemption from disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) of all materials proving an applicant’s identity submitted to obtain an identification card through New York City’s IDNYC program back to January 2015. The legislation, however, continues subjecting application materials submitted in connection with New York State Driver licenses to remain subject to the State’s FOIL laws. In fact, the legislation remains silent concerning all application materials submitted in connection with every other form of identification, profession, or license granted by New York State or municipalities located in New York State.

New York City’s IDNYC program came under fire last October when Assembly Members Ronald Castorina, Jr. and Nicole Malliotakis challenged the directive from Maria Vullo, Superintendent for Financial Services, to New York State chartered banks encouraging them to accept the IDNYC card as primary identification to open bank accounts and apply for credit. Shortly after President Trump’s election, Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Mark-Viverito went on record indicating city agencies would destroy identity information submitted with IDNYC applications. Castorina and Malliotakis attempted to reason with City leaders only to be told by Speaker Mark-Viverito that only a lawsuit against the City would stop the destruction of public documents. Shortly after Speaker Mark-Viverito’s invitation, the two legislators filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, Richmond County. (Castorina v. de Blasio, Index No. 80258/2016) Castorina and Malliotakis successfully obtained a temporary restraining order preventing the destruction of millions of pieces of material submitted to prove applicant identity. This success, however, did not stop the City from changing its policy concerning the application process. Beginning on January 1, 2017, the City of New York no longer retains materials proving the identity of IDNYC program applicants.

Lawyers for the legislators and the City of New York filed their final arguments with the court on February 1, 2017, and now await the decision from Justice Philip G. Minardo. When asked for comment about the new legislation directly targeting the premise of the legislators’ lawsuit lead attorney for Castorina and Malliotakis, Jeffrey Alfano said, “Legislation retroactively affecting the public's right to access information about government programs is dubious, to say the least. As we stated in the petition, the IDNYC program should not be treated differently from New York State’s identification programs." Assembly Member Castorina commented, “The fact that some of those on the left would propose a law like this, shows their arrogance and contempt for the rule of law, and the very principles that this nation was founded upon.”

The Law Office of Jeffrey Alfano launched providing online public access to the court proceedings. Alfano said, "We encourage interested individuals to read the materials and testimony in this case and make up their minds concerning the case."

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Jeffrey Alfano
Law Office of Jeffrey Alfano
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