Subpoena upheld over public hearing statement

Landmark West! representative altered public official’s statement when she read it during public hearing. Virginia Parkhouse, a Landmark West! representative, allegedly misread a letter from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer into the record at a Landmarks Preservation Commission public hearing. Stringer subsequently informed Landmarks of the misstatement, Landmarks complained to the Department of Investigation, and DOI issued a subpoena to Parkhouse. Parkhouse moved to quash the subpoena, claiming that it interfered with her right to free speech and that DOI was not authorized to subpoena private citizens. The lower court upheld the subpoena and the First Department affirmed. 5 CityLand 129 (Sept. 15, 2008).

The Court of Appeals also affirmed, ruling that DOI could seek testimony from Parkhouse through a subpoena. Speech directed at government officials requesting governmental action was insulated from investigation except when DOI could show a strong and probative basis for investigation. Since DOI put forth enough evidence to show that the speech may have been a knowingly false statement of fact to a City agency, the court determined that DOI could subpoena and question Parkhouse about it. The court added that the City Charter granted DOI broad powers, including the right to subpoena private citizens.

Parkhouse v. Stringer, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 5205 (N.Y. June 25, 2009).

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