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Massapequa Water District: Resident's use of FOIL requests is 'abusive'

Among Robert Ripp's FOIL requests was one for two years' worth of emails from water district superintendent Stanley Carey and another employee.

Robert Ripp, a Massapequa resident and retired NYPD

Robert Ripp, a Massapequa resident and retired NYPD officer, at Oyster Bay Town Hall on Jan. 10, 2016. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

The Massapequa Water District is seeking an injunction against a resident to block further filings of Freedom of Information Law requests to the agency.

Robert Ripp, a retired NYPD officer and frequent critic of Oyster Bay Town, has inundated the agency with FOIL requests, asking for more than 4,000 documents over the past two years, the water district said in a complaint filed Monday in Nassau County Supreme Court. 

The agency said in the complaint that the requests have created more than 100 hours of work for the district and called Ripp’s use of the Freedom of Information Law “abusive, spiteful, antagonistic and wasteful.”

Residents, businesses, political candidates, the media and others routinely file information requests under the law to obtain documents and records that are not otherwise publicly available.

Ripp’s attorney, John Palmer of Mineola, said the complaint is “without merit.” Palmer said he plans to file a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint “doesn’t state a legal cause of action.”

Michael Ingham, a Farmingdale attorney for the water district, said Ripp, who lives in Massapequa, has “abused the FOIL process as a vendetta” against the agency’s superintendent, Stanley Carey.

Carey sued Ripp in August 2017 over alleged false and defamatory statements Ripp posted online. Last July, a New York State judge granted Carey a preliminary injunction, ordering Ripp to remove social media comments and not to post defamatory remarks about the water district official.

Ripp has appealed the preliminary injunction to the Appellate Division Second Judicial Department in Brooklyn.

Palmer said Ripp filed the FOIL requests to "expose corruption" in the agency. 

Among Ripp’s FOIL submissions was a request for two years’ worth of emails from Carey and the district’s business manager, Constance Belegrinos, Ingham said.

The water district declined to fulfill the request, Ingham said. He cited an opinion issued by the State Committee on Open Government in 2012 that said a FOIL request for all emails from an official — which could number in the thousands — would be an “unreasonable burden” on the agency.

To fulfill such a request would require someone review each document and determine what’s public information, said Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government.

“When a person is seeking records on numerous occasions for no particularly good reason and to create an unnecessary burden on a government agency, I can see why a request would be made to a court to preclude that kind of activity,” Freeman said. “It’s tremendously time consuming.”

Newsday previously reported that since 2016, three defamation lawsuits have been filed against Ripp, including Carey's. One plaintiff, Oyster Bay Town employee Linda Herman, alleged in her lawsuit that Ripp harassed and slandered her. Another case has been dormant.

In 2017, Ripp also sued Oyster Bay, alleging the town violated the Open Meetings Law and FOIL on multiple occasions. A state judge ordered town board members to attend a training session given by Freeman on open government regulations last May.

The judge will also decide if FOIL responses from the town must be certified by the town clerk or can be certified by other town officials. 

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