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NYCLU, Journalist Len Levitt Sue NYPD for Access to Commissioner Kelly’s Daily Schedule

The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s refusal to disclose basic details of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s daily schedule.

The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s refusal to disclose basic details of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s daily schedule.

The NYCLU filed the lawsuit, an Article 78 petition, in State Supreme Court of New York County on behalf of journalist Leonard Levitt, who has reported on the NYPD for decades. In February, Levitt requested under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) copies of Commissioner Kelly’s schedule that would reveal the identity of people he had met with since January 2002. He sought this information after having reported about previously unknown meetings that Kelly had held at the Harvard Club in New York City.

The NYPD entirely denied Levitt’s FOIL request in May. The NYCLU appealed the NYPD’s denial in June. The NYPD denied the appeal asserting that disclosing Commissioner Kelly’s schedule over the past decade would endanger both the commissioner and the people with whom he had met.

“There is no good reason for Commissioner Kelly to withhold this information from the public,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Even President Obama’s public schedule appears every day on the White House’s website. If it’s safe for the leader of the country to disclose his schedule, then it’s safe for the NYPD commissioner to do the same.”

In October 2010, Levitt published a column revealing that since 2002, Commissioner Kelly had regularly met with prominent people for lunch at the Harvard Club and that a foundation controlled by the commissioner had paid for those lunches. Levitt’s disclosures about the Harvard Club meals triggered substantial press coverage. In a February 2011 column, Levitt noted that reports in the New York Daily News revealed that Kelly had spent more than $15,000 at the Harvard Club in 2008, “the year he was seriously considering running for mayor.”

“If the police commissioner really believes that releasing his schedule threatens the lives of those he meets with, he either suffers from delusions of grandeur or it’s another example of how there’s no oversight over or accountability for the actions of Ray Kelly and the NYPD,” said Levitt, a former Newsday reporter who currently covers the NYPD on his website, “In all the decades that I’ve been covering the NYPD, there has never been less transparency than there is today. Nobody knows what the Police Department is doing, as the recent disclosures on the Department’s spying on New York City’s Muslim community indicates.”

The lawsuit argues that the public has a substantial interest in knowing the identities of people who Commissioner Kelly meets with as well the subjects of those meetings. It maintains that withholding records containing this information violates the law. It also asserts that the NYPD could legally withhold any requested information that would endanger Kelly or anyone else, compromise ongoing police investigations, or violate the privacy of people the commissioner has met with.

“As the most important appointed government official in New York City and as someone who regularly is mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor, Mr. Kelly should realize that the public has a substantial and legitimate interest in knowing who he meets with. The refusal to disclose his schedule is just the latest example of the NYPD’s pattern of stonewalling the public.” said Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU’s associate legal director and lead counsel on the case. “As long as the NYPD continues to embrace secrecy, we will continue to sue to protect the public’s interest in transparency.”

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