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77 78opn14 Decision

77 78opn14 Decision

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Published by: jspector on May 06, 2014
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05/09/2014

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================================================================= This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision beforepublication in the New York Reports.-----------------------------------------------------------------No. 77 In the Matter of Empire Center for New York State Policy, Appellant, v.New York State Teachers' Retirement System, Respondent.------------------------------No. 78 In the Matter of Empire Center for New York State Policy, Appellant, v. Teachers' Retirement Systemof the City of New York, Respondent.Case No. 77:Alia L. Smith, for appellant. Jeffrey W. Lang, for respondent.New York State United Teachers; Albany Times Union etal.; New York State Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO; and Citizens Budget Commission, amici curiae.Case No. 78:Alia L. Smith, for appellant.Elizabeth I. Freedman, for respondent.New York State United Teachers; Albany Times Union etal.; New York State Public Employees Federation, AFL-CIO; andCitizens Budget Commission, amici curiae.SMITH, J.:We hold that Public Officers Law § 89 (7) exempts fromthe Freedomof Information Law (FOIL) only the home addresses,- 1 -
 
- 2 -Nos. 77 and 78 not the names, of retirees who receive benefits frompublicemployees' retirement systems.Petitioner, Empire Center for New York State Policy,describes itself as a "think tank" whose purpose is "to informvoters and policymakers" about issues including pension reform. Petitioner sought disclosure under FOIL fromthe New York State Teachers' Retirement Systemand the Teachers' Retirement Systemof the City of New York of the names of the retired members of the systems. The retirement systems refused to provide thenames, and petitioner brought these article 78 proceedings tovacate the refusals and to compel disclosure. Supreme Courtdismissed both petitions, and the Appellate Division affirmed ineach case (Matter of Empire Ctr. for N.Y. State Policy v New YorkState Teachers' Retirement Sys., 103 AD3d 1009 [3d Dept 2013];Matter of Empire Ctr. for N.Y. State Policy v Teachers'Retirement Sys. of the City of New York, 103 AD3d 593 [1st Dept2013]). We granted leave to appeal in both cases (21 NY3d 859[2013]), and now reverse. The governing statute, Public Officers Law § 89 (7),says:"Nothing in this article [i.e., FOIL] shallrequire the disclosure of the home address of an officer or employee, former officer oremployee, or of a retiree of a publicemployees' retirement system; nor shallanything in this article require thedisclosure of the name or home address of abeneficiary of a public employees' retirementsystemor of an applicant for appointment topublic employment; provided however, that- 2 -
 
- 3 -Nos. 77 and 78 nothing in this subdivision shall limit orabridge the right of an employeeorganization, certified or recognized for anycollective negotiating unit of an employerpursuant to article fourteen of the civilservice law, to obtain the name or homeaddress of any officer, employee or retireeof such employer, if such name or homeaddress is otherwise available under thisarticle." The answer to the question before us -- are retirees'names exempt fromdisclosure? -- is plain fromthe face of thestatute. It exempts "the home address . . . of a retiree," butnot the retiree's name. By contrast, it exempts both the nameand home address of "a beneficiary of a public employees'retirement system." A "beneficiary" of a retirement system, asthe termis commonly used, is a family member of an employee orretiree who is entitled to benefits after the employee's orretiree's death; it is so used on the website of one of theretirement systems in this case (NYSTRS,"Glossary of Benefit Terms," at http://www.nystrs.org/main/glossary/html [last visitedApril 21, 2014]). In some contexts, "beneficiary" might be readmore broadly to include a retiree, for retirees do benefit fromretirement systems. But "beneficiary" was obviously not used inthat sense in this statute, because the statute provides aseparate and more limited exemption for a "retiree."  The courts below were not blind to this logic (seeMatter of Empire Ctr. for New York State Policy v New York State Teachers' Retirement System, 103 AD3d at 1010 ["Well-settledprinciples of statutory construction lend support to the- 3 -

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