“It has come to my attention that there has been false information being disseminated in Social Media about me. It has been alleged that I, as Putnam County Sheriff, will be providing to the Putnam County Legislators, at tonight’s Protective Services meeting, the addresses and names of the Deputies of my office. This is absolutely false. To the contrary, some members of the legislature and other members of county government want to have unfettered access the personnel records of the members of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. To this date I have stood my ground protecting those records and do not support the repeal of section 50a of the NY State Civil Rights Law. I have stood before the legislature more than once on the record in public meetings opposing access to personnel records as some members persist to have those records released. I will continue to oppose the release of these records while working with the PBA to protect the rights of the women and men of the PCSD along with the rights of those in Putnam County.” Sheriff Robert L. Langley, Jr.
#putnamsheriffNY #putnamcountyNY @ Putnam County Sheriff’s Department
Transcript of memo as follows:
Date: April 17, 2020
To: Legislator Paul E. Jonke
Chairman Protective Services Committee
From: Lisa Ortolano
Captain Civil Division Putnam County Sheriff’s Office
Re: Protective Services Committee Meeting April 15th - Civil Rights Law 50-a
This memorandum is in response to your memorandum, dated April 16, 2020, addressed to Sheriff Robert L. Langley Jr. In that memorandum you requested the citation to a case “involving Westchester County and the sharing of personnel records from the Sheriff’s Department.” The case the Sheriff was referring to is Matter of Certain Police Officers to Quash a So-Ordered Subpoena Duces Tecum, 2020 WL 913791. In that case, the Court granted a motion to quash the District Attorney’s subpoena for “any and all personnel records, including but not limited to all administrative, personnel or civilian complaints, and records of discipline.” The Court held that since the District Attorney did not adhere to the requirements of Civil Rights Law 50-a, the motion to quash the District Attorney’s subpoena, made by the PBA on behalf of certain Police Officers, was granted.
At the April 15, 2020 Protective Services Committee meeting the Legislative Attorney stated in sum and substance that the Legislature is “entitled” to the disciplinary records of the Deputies of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff’s position is that the Legislature does not have the absolute power to review the personnel files and any disciplinary records contain therein.
It is long standing law that disciplinary records and decisions “are quintessential ‘personnel records’ protected by Civil Rights Law § 50 - a.” New York Civil Liberties Union v. New York City Police Dep’t, 32 N.Y.3d 556, 564, 118 N.E.3d 847, 851 - 52 (2018). Civil Rights Law 50-a (1) states as follows:
“All personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion, under the control of any police agency or department of the state … and such personnel records under the control of a sheriff’s department or a department of correction of individuals employed as corrections officers …. shall be considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer, … correction officer or peace officer … except as may be mandated by lawful court order.”
Thus, generally, personnel records of a Deputy cannot be released without either consent of the Deputy or by Court Order. However, as noted by the Legislative Attorney, there are exceptions to this rule found in Civil Rights Law 50-a (4) which states as follows: “The provisions of this section shall not apply to any district attorney or his assistants, the attorney general or his deputies or assistants, a county attorney or his deputies or assistants, a corporation counsel or his deputies or assistants, a town attorney or his deputies or assistants, a village attorney or his deputies or assistants, a grand jury, or any agency of government which requires the records described in subdivision one, in the furtherance of their official functions.”
This provision, however, does not grant absolute power to obtain confidential personnel files and information. It has been held that Civil Rights Law 50-a (4) does not confer “unrestricted and unfettered’ power. People v. D.N. 62 Misc. 3d 544, 89 N.Y.S.3d 568 (N.Y.Crim.Ct. 2018)
Therefore, before any information contained within a personnel file of a deputy may be turned over to any of the enumerated parties set forth in Civil Rights Law 50-a (4) it must be demonstrated that the requested documents are required “in the furtherance of their official functions.”
Furthermore, the Deputy has the absolute right to move to quash any legislative subpoena seeking such documents.
I thank you for your consideration. I am available if you wish to discuss this matter further.