Challenging Nassau County’s Secret Assessments

Like many others in Nassau County, Diane Eckel grieves her real property assessments. The stakes are high. Taxpayers can save tens of thousands of dollars in successful challenges. But knowing how the County determines values is critical to making a challenge. Particularly helpful are the comparable sales the County uses to determine value.

Ms. Eckel made a Freedom of Information Law request for those comps and Nassau County refused to disclose them. The county argues that comps are assessor opinions exempt from disclosure. This unjustified nondisclosure leaves Ms. Eckel completely in the dark.

Ms. Eckel sued for a court ruling that comps are “factual data” that should be shared. The Nassau County Supreme Court agreed and ordered them to be disclosed. Regarding the County’s deliberative process defense, the Court “does not see how providing the comps will in anyway infringe upon the deliberative process. Eckel is not, and would not be, entitled to any information that would indicate why [the Assessment Review Commission] chose the comps, and how these comps assisted them in reaching a determination.”

The Second Department Appellate Division concluded the Nassau County court “correctly determined that the requested information about the comparables constituted factual data insofar as it constituted ‘objective information,’ separate from the “opinions, ideas, or advice” contained in the assessment report.”
It makes no sense that a local government can withhold data used to make decisions. The facts behind such important decisions like assessment grievances or appeals should not be kept in the dark, and it is the nondisclosure of this type of information that FOIL seeks to remedy.