ORDA appeals decision about accident records access
By Tim Rowland
The Olympic Regional Development Authority has filed notice that it plans to appeal a court order requiring the public body to provide accident records to the Adirondack Explorer, according to papers filed this week with the Essex County clerk.
After losing in state Supreme Court in September, ORDA had 30 days to provide the requested documents to the Explorer or file notice of appeal. It now has six months to submit the required paperwork with the appeals court. ORDA, represented by Attorney General Letitia James’ office, declined comment.
“We are confident the appellate division will affirm and uphold” the lower court’s decision,” said Jeff Mans, attorney for the Explorer.
RELATED: Explorer publisher Tracy Ormsbee weighs in, writing in the Nov/Dec issue of Adirondack Explorer magazine
The notice of appeal asks that the decision, rendered late last month by Judge Richard Meyer, be reconsidered in total. The judge sided with the Explorer, but did not grant the news organization’s request for legal fees.
Now that the case is headed for the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the Third Judicial Department, Mans said the Explorer will cross appeal to ask the higher court to overturn Meyer’s denial of fees.
The case stems from an Explorer investigation into the safety of ORDA’s sliding sports, including bobsled, skeleton and luge.
Under state Freedom of Information Law, investigative reporter James M. Odato requested accident reports from January 2015 to July 4, 2020, and from calendar year 2004 for athletic competitions at Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s Olympic Complex.
ORDA responded by providing records that were almost entirely redacted, prompting the Explorer to sue. ORDA, citing the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, argued that a more complete accounting would violate the privacy rights of those who had been injured.
The Explorer did not ask for names, just the circumstances involving the accidents. Privacy law states that medical reports can be released after names and other identifying information, such as driver license numbers, have been redacted.
If the Explorer prevails in the Third Department — which covers much of the Adirondacks — Mans said it will be advantageous to the public, because it would set precedent, making it harder for governments to push the boundaries of secrecy.
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