Dominick Calsolaro

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Treasurer denies council request citing medical info

Published on 4/22/2009 by the Times Union written by JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST, Staff writer

From today’s paper, the city’s treasurer’s office has denied the Common Council’s request for copies of dismissed tickets and accompanying written explanation, citing citing potential violations of federal protections for private medical records.

Here’s a copy of the letter from Barnette’s attorney.

Several council members say the excuse rings hollow because the treasurer’s office, which is not a medical service provider, should not be bound by HIPAA. Robert Freeman, head of the state’s Committee on Open Government, agrees.

But Barnette’s attorney, Brian Devane, says the larger issue is the chilling effect that disclosure of the written explanations could have. He also responded strongly to statements by Common Council President Shawn Morris that Barnette was lying when she said her office does not “fix” tickets.

“I hope that nobody gets the impression that we’re trying to obstruct the process,” Devane said. “My clients, despite being called liars by Shawn Morris, are still complying with every part of this process.”

Common Councilman Dominick Calsolaro echoed statements by Council President Pro Tem Richard Conti that the denial is a direct assault on the council’s authority.

Said Calsolaro via e-mail: “I think it is a direct attack on the Council’s powers both under the Charter and state law.“

Conti also made this point: Even if there are some council members who disagreed with the council’s move to expand their no-fine ticket probe to include dismissed tickets (and there were) those members should now feel compelled to defend the council’s authority to do so, if it chooses.

Calsolaro has also been irked for several weeks by the fact that the council has to go through a private attorney (who is being paid by the city) to communicate with a city agency.