October 21, 2002
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The
ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter of September 20 and the correspondence attached to it. You have
sought an advisory opinion concerning the propriety of a response to your request under the
Freedom of Information Law by the Village of Voorheesville.
By way of background, in a request made in August, you requested several categories of
records, one of which involved the "first page of each resume or the first page of each application,
with the personal identifying information deleted, for any person who applied for the position of
Village Clerk in 2002." That portion of your request was denied on the basis of §87(2)(b) of the
Freedom of Information Law. In addition, you were asked to pay for copies determined to be
available by check or money order; it was specified that you cannot "submit cash."
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, as a general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is based upon a presumption of
access. Stated differently, all records of an agency are available, except to the extent that records
or portions thereof fall within one or more grounds for denial appearing in §87(2)(a) through (i) of
the Law. It is emphasized that the introductory language of §87(2) provides all records are available,
except "records or portions thereof" that fall within the grounds for denial of access that follow. The
phrase quoted in the preceding sentence indicates that situations may arise in which a single record
includes both accessible and deniable information, and that an agency is obliged to review records
sought, in their entirety, to determine which portions, if any, may justifiably be withheld.
Second, it is clear that the names and addresses of applicants for appointment to public
employment need not be disclosed [see Freedom of Information Law, §89(7)], and that portions of
a resume or an application for employment may be withheld under §§87(2))(b) and 89(2) on the
ground that disclosure would constitute "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." The latter
provision contains a series of examples of unwarranted invasions of personal privacy, the first of
which makes specific reference to the disclosure of employment histories; another refers to
information of a personal nature in some circumstances. However, in a manner similar to §87(2),
that provision specifies that disclosure "shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion
of personal privacy....when identifying details are deleted" [§89(2)(c)(i)]. Therefore, in my view,
the records in question should be disclosed following the deletion of personally identifying details.
I note that in some instances, the deletion of a name and address alone may not be sufficient to
ensure that a person's identity will not become known. In those situations, I believe that an agency
may delete any details which, if disclosed, would permit the identity of the subject of the record to
become known. I note that in a somewhat analogous request by a faculty member of a branch of
the City University of New York for resumes of those promoted to full professor during a given
period in order that he could compare his credentials to those of others, the court determined that
the records must be disclosed following the deletion of personally identifying details [Harris v. City
University of New York, Baruch College, 114 AD2d 805 (1985)].
Lastly, there is nothing in the Freedom of Information Law that pertains specifically to the
means by which fees for copies should be paid. In the only decision of which I am aware, it was
found that the County Board of Elections "failed to provide a reasonable and rationale basis to
justify their policy of requiring payment of fees for copying of records in the form of only bank
checks or money orders", and it was ordered that the agency be required to accept payment in
United States currency as well [Reese v. Mahoney, Supreme Court, Erie County, June 28, 1984].
Based on the decision reached in Reese, it appears that the Village is required to accept United
States currency as legal tender for payment for photocopies prepared in response to a request under
the Freedom of Information Law.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Derris V. Tidd, Village Clerk