March 2, 1998
Ms. Linda Mangano
38 Ellis Place
Ossining, NY 10562
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 Ms. Mangano:
I have received your letter of February 5 in which you asked whether
you have the right to use your own photocopier to reproduce records
maintained by the Village of Ossining.
From my perspective, as a general matter, a municipality has the ability
to adopt rules to implement and govern the manner in which it carries out its
duties. So long as those rules are reasonable and not inconsistent with law,
I believe that they would be valid. As you may be aware, in a decision
concerning a situation in which a village adopted rules prohibiting requesters
from using their own photocopiers, it was held that the rules "constitute a
valid and rational exercise of the Village's authority under Public Officers Law
§87(1)(b)" [Murtha v. Leonard, 620 NYS 2d 101,102; 210 AD2d 411
(1994)]. In my opinion, the decision was based upon the reasonableness of
the rules in view of attendant facts and circumstances. In situations in which
an agency does not have sufficient resources or cannot carry out its duties
effectively due to the use or presence of a personal copier without disruption,
it might be found, as indicated in Murtha that a prohibition against the use of
personal photocopiers would be valid.
In the context of your inquiry, I cannot offer an unequivocal response.
There may be circumstances in which, due to the nature of the records sought,
their volume, their location, the workload of the Village of staff and similar
factors, the use of one's own photocopier may be disruptive. In that instance,
it is likely in my view that a municipality, could validly prohibit an individual
from using his or her own photocopier. There may be other instances,
however, in which the attendant facts suggest that the use of a personal
photocopier might not be disruptive. In those cases, it may be unreasonable
to prohibit the use of a personal photocopier.
I regret that I cannot offer more precise guidance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Marie Fuesy, Clerk