Times Union: Did editing taint a report?

The leader of a business group opposed to New York’s Scaffold Law offered edits to an academic analysis of its impact on construction costs and worker injuries — an $82,800 study that was funded by the same group.

Tom Stebbins, the leader of the state Lawsuit Reform Alliance, and officials at SUNY‘s Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government insist that their communications during the preparation of the report had no impact on its data or conclusions. But labor groups who support Scaffold Law say it deepens their belief that the study — including a controversial chapter the institute has backed away from — amounted to advocacy camouflaged as research.

Scaffold Law, which places “absolute liability” on employers for gravity-related workplace injuries, is supported by labor unions but opposed by business groups that claim it needlessly drives up construction costs. Opponents would like to see New York move to a “comparative negligence” standard that would make workers proportionately responsible when their actions contribute to an accident.

The Rockefeller Institute report, made public in February, included a statistical analysis that concluded construction injuries in Illinois dropped after the state repealed its version of the Scaffold Law in 1995 — a finding that was highlighted by the law’s opponents as they renewed their legislative combat.

But the director of the Albany-based institute, Thomas Gais, subsequently made public what he described as flaws in the study’s Illinois analysis — conducted by a Cornell University researcher — and the fact that the report was released to its funders before a final round of vetting had taken place.

Click here to read the full story on the results of CPD’s FOIL query in the Albany Times-Union.

Click here to read the full correspondence between the Lawsuit Reform Alliance and the Rockefeller Institute in the Albany Times-Union.