INDEPENDENT BUDGET OFFICE
The City of New York
110 WILLIAM STREET, 14TH FL., NEW YORK, NY 10038
|For Immediate Release
April 1, 1998
|Contact: Herbert Block
pager: (917) 788-5864
* NEWS RELEASE *
The New York City Independent Budget Office (IBO), joined by 16 co-plaintiffs, announced that it filed a lawsuit today against Mayor Giuliani for violating the City Charter by denying IBO direct and timely access to information and data from City agencies.
"IBO was established by the voters to enhance official and public understanding of the City budget and finances. We are filing this lawsuit in order to be able to fully and effectively fulfill the Charter's mandate. The Mayor tried his best to prevent IBO from opening but now we cannot let him impede us from doing our job. If 'civility' means obeying the law, here is one place the Mayor can start. IBO has not taken this step lightly, but it is the only course of action left to us after unsuccessfully attempting to work in good faith with the Mayor and OMB. Mayor Giuliani has once again erected a barrier - this time between the public and their government," said IBO Director Douglas A. Criscitello.
The lawsuit asks the State Supreme Court to declare "invalid" a directive of the Mayor's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that prohibits City agencies from dealing directly with IBO without the pre-screening of OMB. The suit also asks the Court to enjoin the Mayor and OMB from interfering with IBO's ability to get needed access to data and information from City agencies.
According to the Charter IBO is "authorized to secure such information, data, estimates, and statistics from the agencies of the city" as IBO determines is necessary to fulfill its functions. However, as a result of the Mayor's current policies on access to information, IBO has been hampered in its ability to provide its Charter-mandated clients with the full types of information and analysis to which they are entitled.
"The City Charter provides for a system of checks and balances to ensure that the Mayor and his agencies remain responsive to the people they are supposed to serve," New York City Public Advocate Mark Green said. "By denying access to agency information that could result in improved services, Mayor Giuliani not only violates the Charter and the law - but also the very notion that elected officials are accountable to the public. I'm confident that once again the Courts will decide that the Mayor has abused his power by witholding information that the public, the press and elected officials have a right to."
Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer said, "A strong selling point of the 1989 Charter was to ensure fair and effective representation of all New Yorkers in the processes of city government. The lure of greater public participation, as represented by an IBO - 'The People's Budget Office,' might have been the ultimate inducement in the fragile victory of Charter reform."
"Information is power. That's especially true when it comes to the budget. Mayor Giuliani's assault on the IBO's access to information is an assault on every New Yorker who wants open and participatory city budget-making," said Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which was the lead plaintiff in the successful lawsuit from 1991 to 1996 to compel compliance with the Charter and establish IBO.
The IBO and its Director, Douglas A. Criscitello, were joined as co-plaintiffs by public officials and non-governmental organizations which need and use the analytical services of IBO: Public Advocate Mark Green; Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer; City Council Members Stephen DiBrienza, Thomas Duane, Ronnie Eldridge, Sheldon Leffler, Margarita Lopez, Bill Perkins, Phil Reed, and Angel Rodriguez; New York Public Interest Research Group; The City Project; Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development; Common Cause of New York State; Community Service Society of New York; and The City Club of New York. Attorney Evan Davis and the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton are serving as pro bono counsel.
Since its inception in 1996, IBO has published reports analyzing the Mayor's budget proposals and commenting on other budgetary issues affecting the city, including education, the environment, city parks, welfare policy, police, and tax revenues (including sales, hotel occupancy, and personal income taxes). Additional studies and research has been prepared in response to requests from elected officials and the public. All IBO publications are located on our website (www.ibo.nyc.ny.us) and all other IBO work is available to the public.