A unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, First Department, yesterday ordered New York City to release a consultant’s review of its 911 system and emergency response times prepared in the wake of a 2010 blizzard that left ambulances stranded and overwhelmed the emergency call system.
The order came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Uniform Fire Officers Association, Local 854, the firefighter’s union. The city had refused to release the report, saying that it was still in draft form. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron (See Profile) ordered its release last spring (NYLJ, April 17).
The panel affirmed that order. “The City failed to show that the public interest would be harmed by the disclosure of drafts of a public safety consultant’s report recommending a change to the 911 call system,” the panel wrote. “Absent sensitive subject matter or exposure of review participants to liability, the City’s contention that the disclosure of the drafts would have a chilling effect on the internal discussions of those engaged in reviewing technical projects such as this is speculative.”
The panel also rejected the city’s argument that the report was privileged because it was a “self-critical” analysis. “This privilege has never been recognized under New York law, and this case is not the exceptional and compelling case that justifies the judicial creation of a new privilege,” the panel wrote.
Justices Angela Mazzarelli (See Profile), John Sweeny Jr. (See Profile), Karla Moskowitz (See Profile), Dianne Renwick (See Profile) and Helen Freedman (See Profile) sat on the panel in Uniformed Fire Officers Association v. City of New York, 101799/12.