The Town of Greenburgh last week agreed to appeal a court ruling directing the Town to turn over a copy of its email list to the president of a civic association.
Dorrine Livson, the president of the Worthington Woodlands Civic Association, who won the court ruling, said she received notice that the Town had filed a notice of appeal.
Under state law, because the court had ordered the Town to turn over the email list, the Town’s filing of a notice of appeal automatically stays the Town from having to comply with the order pending disposition of its appeal.
The Town Board made its decision to appeal in secret. The subject was discussed openly at the Town Board work session last Tuesday, at which time Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said he favored an appeal because he did not want civic associations to be able to use the Town’s email list to disseminate what he regarded as “political” posts.
Ms. Livson made the request to obtain the Town’s email list to rebut political posts that Mr. Feiner had been making in support of efforts by Tarrytown-based startup GameOn 365 to obtain rights to lease and later purchase the former environmentally contaminated Frank’s Nursery site. No lease was ever signed, no purchase ever took place, and the Town two weeks ago abandoned its plan to auction the property pending further environmental analysis.
Mr. Feiner uses the Town’s email list, which contains approximately 2,500 email addresses, at least two to three times per week. In recent years, he has used the Town’s email system (and the Town’s website) to attack political opponents, including private citizens, who have criticized his actions, including officers of the Edgemont Community Council. He has also used the email list to promote his personal political agenda on issues such as fire district consolidation.
The court ruling noted that none of the reasons the Town raised for not wanting to turn over the lists were listed among the reasons the Town gave for rejecting Ms. Livson’s request, and the cases cited by the Town for not turning over the list were not relevant. The New York State Committee on Open Government has issued an opinion stating that a municipality’s email list is a public record that should be disclosed if a request is made for it under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.
At Tuesday’s work session, Town Councilman Francis Sheehan asked what grounds the Town would have to appeal the decision, expressing concern that if the Town did not have valid grounds to appeal, the appellate court might issue sanctions and award court costs against the Town.
No grounds were publicly stated, the matter was then discussed in executive session, and the vote to appeal was taken secretly.
When an appeal is filed, the appealing party has six months to “perfect” its appeal by filing a brief setting for the legal grounds for the appeal.
The legal effort on Ms. Livson’s behalf is being provided by Keane & Beane, the White Plains-based law firm that successfully prosecuted the Fortress Bible case against the Town and Mr. Feiner which resulted in a $6.5 million settlement, which is believed to be the largest settlement against a municipality for religious discrimination in the country.