Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 9, 2013

Falls Bridge Commission lawsuit languishes


Niagara Gazette — “The judicial system moves on their own timetable,” Sklarski said. “The decides in his own time and there’s nothing we can do.”

The lawsuit seeks to force the commission to disclose information about the 2008 departure of it’s executive director, Thomas Garlock. Sklarski and Cerretto filed their request for details about Garlock’s separation agreement with the commission under the federal Freedom of Information Act which requires government agencies and entities to make information about their operations available to the public.

The lawsuit is Ceretto and Sklarski’s second attempt to force the commission to provide documents on Garlock’s exit. A prior lawsuit, brought under New York State’s Freedom of Information Law, was dismissed by Arcara, who ruled the commission was not a state agency and not subject to the state law.

The commission has argued that it is neither a state nor a federal agency and is not subject to either of the public disclosure laws.

During the October 2010 arguments in the case, Arcara repeatedly asked commission lawyers, “What’s the big secret? What are you trying to hide? Who are you trying to protect?” 

When the commission lawyers said they wanted to protect Garlock’s privacy, Arcara took issue with that position.

“But who pays him?” Arcara said.

“The commission,” one their lawyers replied.

“Where does the commission get its money from? From the public, when they cross the bridges, it gets it from me,” the judge said. “Your position, it defies common sense.”

In his prior ruling, Arcara declared, “There can be no doubt that the commission is a public authority of some sort, performing a public function.” Lawyers for Ceretto and Sklarski the argued the federal FOIA must apply to the commission.

In prior filings in state and federal court and in arguments in front of Arcara, lawyers for the commission have repeatedly insisted that they are not bound by the laws of either the United States or Canada because the board is “bi-national” and made up of half American and half Canadian members.

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