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We Sued, We Won

For months, AV associate editor Buck Quigley hit brick walls trying to obtain basic information—meeting minutes, budget documents, etc.—from the board charged with negotiating a merger between ECMC and Kaleida. That board, Western New York Health Systems, also known as Newco, claimed to be exempt from New York State’s laws regarding open meetings and freedom of information.

So Buck joined in a lawsuit challenging Newco’s claims to exemption. On Friday, we won. Judge Patrick NeMoyer issued his judgment, in which he rules in favor of the plaintiffs (that’s us) on every count, and orders Newco to pay court and attorney fees for good measure.

What does this mean? It means Newco has to give us all the meeting minutes they’ve been withholding, so that we have some idea how they came to negotiate the proposed merger (which, by the way, is hardly written in stone), what their primary considerations were, etc. It means we get to find out how much all this cost. It means Buck’s attorney, Peter Reese, may get paid after all.

It’s also a precedent: The next time a public/private authority claims to be exempt from New York State laws regarding openness, we have a court case to wave under their noses.

(Buck, who’s battling his way back to Buffalo against the midwestern aftermath of Hurricane Ike, will have more on this decision tomorrow on AV Daily and Thursday in our print edition.)