Monday, January 07, 2013

Westchester | How much might Gannett spend to force release of more gun permit data: try $460K

When Putnam County last week refused The Journal News' request for handgun permit records, county officials almost certainly set up a legal showdown with the Gannett daily. And if the recent experience of GCI's New Jersey newspapers is a guide, those officials will lose the fight under open-records laws -- and at a taxpayer cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Asbury Park Press and two other dailies are demanding reimbursement of their huge legal costs from the small Raritan Borough over the papers' 2009 request for computerized payroll records. Citing the state's Open Public Records Act, the newspapers sued for the records in a format they could manipulate for analysis -- and not as a hard copy PDF or printout. A judge eventually sided with the papers.

"At first," reporter Sergio Bichao wrote in a story today, "Raritan Borough said it didn’t maintain the information electronically — although that proved to be untrue.

"Like other municipalities who responded to the OPRA request, the borough later said its third-party payroll provider could convert the data into an Excel spreadsheet at a cost of $1,100. It was an amount that the newspapers considered exorbitant, especially if an individual citizen were asked to pay it.

Pay them $460K -- plus
In a precedent-setting decision in August, state Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone ordered Raritan Borough to release the records in digital format. The borough finally turned over the data last month.

Now, GCI's attorneys want reimbursement of more than $459,500 of its actual legal costs -- plus a 50% "enhancement," citing "significant public interests” presented in the case. Judges may award such enhancements in OPRA cases that further the public’s interest.

In New York, Putnam County officials turned down the Journal News' request on the grounds of public safety -- but without citing an exemption under the state's open-records laws. By then, Westchester and Rockland counties had already complied with the paper's earlier request for names and addresses of the permit holders -- setting off an aggressive campaign against the paper from gun rights supporters.

Journal News Publisher Janet Hasson vowed to pursue the Putnam records, telling her paper: "We take seriously our obligation to serve the residents of Putnam County and will aggressively pursue the community’s right of access to public record information."

She wasn't more specific. More than likely, however, the paper will go to court.


  1. Go Janet. You are tough and ethical. Do the right thing.

    1. Oh yeah ... out those police officers, prison guards and stalking victims, Janet!

      If they can't afford to hire armed guards outside their homes, that's what they get for not being as rich and successful as you are.

  2. "We take seriously our obligation to serve the residents of Putnam County and will aggressively pursue the community’s right of access to public record information."

    Even when the residents don't want the information because they know the paper is pursuing it to advance their own agenda?

    How fucking arrogant can you be?

    1. Who's to say they don't want it? You?

      You just answered your last question.

    2. Who's to say they DO want it?

      Or who's to say that more residents want it than don't want it?

      You? Janet?

      Those armed guards outside the Journal News offices tend to argue against you.

  3. So. ... Hasson is paying for armed guards at Journal News White Plains and Nyack locations, but the third location - Mount Kisco - goes unprotected. What gives?

  4. Isn't the press supposed to be on the side of the law-abiding little guy — going after wrongdoers, not the blameless?

    This whole episode is a bizarre abuse of power. It merely reinforces the public's worst impressions of the press, namely, that it is arrogant, ideological, untrustworthy, and clueless.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.