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Islip settles suit over access to financial records filed by nonprofit

In 1664, the settler Matthias Nicoll named the

In 1664, the settler Matthias Nicoll named the town after his village of Islip in Northamptonshire, England. Credit: Erin Geismar

The Town of Islip has settled a civil suit brought by a New York City-based nonprofit seeking the municipality’s 2014 financial records, the group announced.

The Reclaim New York Center for Government Reform and Accountability filed a suit on Aug. 3 claiming the town “stonewalled” the group’s efforts for transparency with public records. The town complied after more than six months, multiple records requests, appeals, legal opinions from the State of New York and thousands of dollars in expenses, said Brandon Muir, executive director of the nonprofit.

An Islip Town spokeswoman declined to comment on the settlement.

The town wrote a check to the attorney who represented Reclaim New York in the suit for $4,012.52 on Nov. 24, according to Douglass Kellog, communications director for Reclaim New York. The municipality also then released the requested records.

When the group filed a Freedom of Information Law request in March asking Islip Town for records detailing its expenditures for that fiscal year, the town at first refused to release the information. Town officials said they would comply if the nonprofit signed an affidavit assuming liability for any “claims and damages” that arose as a result of the records release, Muir said at the time.

Muir said the settlement “is another huge victory for every New Yorker who wants more open, honest government.”

The Town of Babylon and the Southampton school district were also named in this lawsuit. Reclaim New York said at a news conference in August those entities have also not complied with FOIL requests for financial records.

Southampton schools settled on Sept. 1 by paying $4,013 in legal fees to Reclaim New York as well as releasing their expenditure information, according to the group.

Southampton school officials declined to answer questions about the settlement. Interim Superintendent of Schools Nicholas J. Dyno in an emailed statement said the “district is pleased” to have settled the suit prior to the start of the school year.

District officials did not immediately comment Friday.

Litigation against Babylon Town is still pending, Kellogg said. At the time the suit was filed, Babylon Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said the municipality “is committed to transparency and open government, and Reclaim New York’s assertions to the contrary are unfounded.”

Reclaim New York, as part of its “Transparency Project,” sent more than 250 FOIL requests to municipalities across Long Island, including to the two counties and all towns and villages.

The records will be part of a statewide database to publicly disclose the finances of the state’s more than 3,400 governments.

Nearly 40 governmental entities failed to comply with the group’s requests, Muir has said.

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