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July 17, 1997

 

 

 

Mr. Walter Greening
68 West Corbett Road
Montgomery, NY 12549

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to
issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is
based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.

Dear Mr. Greening:

I have received your letter of June 19, as well as the
correspondence attached to it. You have complained that the Valley
Central School District has restricted your time for inspection to
certain limited hours on particular days and you have sought an
advisory opinion on the matter.

In this regard, by way of background, §89(1)(b)(iii) of the
Freedom of Information Law requires the Committee to promulgate
regulations concerning the procedural implementation of the Law
(see 21 NYCRR Part 1401). In turn, §87(1) requires agencies to
adopt rules and regulations consistent with the Law and the
Committee's regulations.

Section 1401.2 of the regulations, provides in relevant part
that:

"(a) The governing body of a public
corporation and the head of an executive
agency or governing body of other agencies
shall be responsible for insuring compliance
with the regulations herein, and shall
designate one or more persons as records
access officer by name or by specific job
title and business address, who shall have the
duty of coordinating agency response to public
requests for access to records. The
designation of one or more records access
officers shall not be construed to prohibit
officials who have in the past been authorized
to make records or information available to
the public from continuing to do so..."

Section 1401.4 of the regulations, entitled "Hours for public
inspection", states that:

"(a) Each agency shall accept requests for
public access to records and produce records
during all hours they are regularly open for
business."

Relevant to your inquiry and the foregoing is a decision
rendered by the Appellate Division. Among the issues was the
validity of a similar limitation regarding the time permitted to
inspect records established by a village pursuant to regulation.
The Court held that the village was required to enable the public
to inspect records during its regular business hours, stating that:

"...to the extent that Regulation 6 has been
interpreted as permitting the Village Clerk to
limit the hours during which public documents
can be inspected to a period of time less than
the business hours of the Clerk's office, it
is violative of the Freedom of Information
Law..." [Murtha v. Leonard, 620 NYS 2d 101
(1994), 210 AD 2d 411].

In an effort to resolve the matter, a copy of this opinion
will be forwarded to District's records access officer.

I hope that I have been of assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

RJF:jm

cc: Susan P. Reichardt