To the Editor,
On June 26, Mayor Joe Sack sent an email to many Rye residents coaxing them to remove their names from our city Listserv to avoid receiving an email from state Assemblyman Steve Otis, who is a Rye resident and our former mayor.
After careful consideration of how best to proceed, as well as a lengthy conversation with legal experts in the New York Conference of Mayors’ office, we feel compelled to ask that guidelines be put in place to prevent the future misuse of the city’s Listserv. We also want to make sure that the public knows the facts about the claims their mayor has sent them.
Sack began the dispute on June 21, 2017, by sending a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding the New York State Thruway property. He wrote that the city never knew about legislation regarding the sale of this property and that it was done “behind our backs.” The mayor also sent the letter to residents who had signed up to receive city information through our Listserv.
Otis responded to those accusations with a letter documenting that he had, in fact, shared all relevant information with the City Council prior to the vote in the Legislature, and that the council had received and understood this information (which we can attest to, personally). Sack even discussed the sale of the Thruway property to Rye Country Day School in an interview, published on May 11, 2017, in the Review. Otis attached documentation proving his point, and requested that the city distribute the letter and accompanying documentation on the city’s Listserv. This would have given members of the public a chance to have both sides of the story. Sack denied Otis’ request—twice.
Otis then did what any good government official who cares about his constituents should do: he used the Freedom of Information Law, and made a FOIL request for the email addresses in the city Listserv in order to provide you, Rye residents, access to information that you have a right to see. According to law, this request is completely valid and well within Otis’s rights (see the court case Livison v. Town of Greenburgh).
Sack refused to comply with this reasonable and valid request. Implying that Otis is a gadfly, he wrote, “Regrettably, as a result, the floodgates may now be opened to anyone who wants access to your listserv email for whatever purpose.” As the mayor and a lawyer, Joe Sack knows perfectly well that this statement is false.
We feel that this needs to come to an end now. While the law does not prohibit the mayor from using the city’s Listserv to spread misinformation to residents, doing so abuses the power given to him by voters. And slandering Otis with deliberate and defamatory misinformation serves only the mayor’s personal or political purpose.
This is why we are asking that the city rule that our Listserv not be used for personal use. Furthermore, when the mayor does send out any statement on his own, it should be with a disclaimer: “This statement reflects my own personal views and is not the view of the whole City Council.”
Mayor Sack’s views are certainly not ours.
Danielle Tagger-Epstein and Emily Hurd,
Rye City councilwomen