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Armonk Resident Sues North Castle to Obtain Police Records

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An Armonk man is suing the Town of North Castle, its police department and various town officials for failing to provide him with four officers’ disciplinary records following a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. Asad Gilani, acting as his own attorney, filed an Article 78 on June 24 in state Supreme Court after he was informed by Town Clerk Alison Simon, North Castle’s records access officer, that the records he was seeking did not exist.

On May 29, Gilani submitted the FOIL request to view the disciplinary records of Sgt. William McClure, Detective Anthony Sabatella and officers Jeffrey Delfini and Louis Carricato, including any civilian complaints against them. Three days later he was told by Simon that there were no records on file.

“The Respondents have willfully violated the Public Officers Law by refusing to acknowledge Petitioner’s legitimate and lawful request to provide the police disciplinary records in light of the Repeal,” Gilani stated in the litigation.

The repeal he referred to was the state legislature’s repeal of Section 50-a of New York’s Civil Rights Law, which shielded an officer’s records from the public. The repeal was approved by the legislature during the 2020 session as part of police reform initiatives and signed into law by former governor Andrew Cuomo on June 12, 2020.

When reached last week, Gilani declined to answer why he is seeking the records of the four officers.

“I am confident that Supreme Court will decide and compel Town of North Castle to produce the disciplinary document,” he later responded in a text.

In addition to the town and the police department, other respondents listed in the suit are Simon, Supervisor Michael Schiliro and Town Administrator Kevin Hay.

Last week, the Town Board, which decides on appeals related to FOIL requests, voted to confirm Simon’s actions and will be sending that resolution to the Committee on Open Government in Albany.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said if the board in its role as the entity that hears appeals on FOIL requests remained silent on the matter, after 10 days it would be confirming the steps taken by Simon.

“I think the action you would consider taking would be to confirm the actions of the records access officer,” Baroni said. “I don’t think you have to independently verify whether records exist or not.”

Simon stressed that her response to Gilani’s FOIL was not a denial. Once her office received his request, she then communicated with Police Chief Peter Simonsen and was advised by Simonsen that the requested documents were non-existent. Gilani then responded that he had obtained a Police Witness 1K Questions form, which is used by the Westchester County District Attorney’s office when police officers testify, dated Feb. 14, 2020. That form had McClure’s name on it.

The officer declined to respond to two of the six questions, citing Section 50-a on one of the questions, which was still in effect at the time.

According to Simon, that gave Gilani reason to believe that disciplinary records exist for McClure.

“It is not an indication that any records exist, it’s just a piece of paper that Mr. Gilani got his hands on, shared with me and seems to think it’s indicative that documents do, in fact, exist, that are responsive to his request for information,” said Simon.

Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said she has spoken extensively with Simonsen about the matter and was assured by him that there were no documents regarding the officers’ disciplinary records. In fact, the chief spent additional time searching to make sure that was the case and turned up nothing, she said.

“So I feel very confident in Alison and the chief saying that there is no document to produce, or documents,” DiGiacinto said.

During the meeting the board voted to receive the Article 78. Baroni said the town will provide its answer to the court and Simon and Simonsen will need to submit affidavits.

“It will probably take many months to get a decision on something like this, but ultimately I think the Article 78 will be dismissed and that will be the end of it unless an appeal is filed to the Appellate Division, and then it will take on a life of its own,” Baroni said. “We hope that doesn’t happen.”

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