March 11, 1998
Ms. Ann A. Perron
6 Seneca Road
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. Perron:
I have received your letter of February 22 concerning a request for list
of all telephone numbers used by or assigned to the Village of Ossining.
Some of the numbers were withheld on the ground that they are "unlisted or
confidential." You have questioned the propriety of the denial.
While I am unaware of the factual basis for the denial, there are
instances, particularly those associated with law enforcement activities, in
which a denial of access may be justifiable. It is noted, too, that some of the
phone numbers may relate to fax machines.
By means of example, there may be phone lines dedicated to and used
only for emergency communications involving public safety or criminal law
enforcement activities. Others may be used to provide orders, directives and
the like to police officers or other public employees involved in emergency
responses. A situation was related to me in which certain fax machines are
used solely to receive modifications relating to warrants issued and recalled
and to engage in non-routine interdepartmental communications. If those
lines were to become tied up due to calls made from members of the public,
including potential lawbreakers, it is likely that the Village could not carry out
its duties optimally or in a manner in which the public would be adequately
served or protected.
In the kinds of circumstances described above, it is likely that
§87(2)(f) of the Freedom of Information Law would be pertinent. That
provision states that an agency may withhold records to the extent that
disclosure "would endanger the life or safety of any person."
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Marie A. Fuesy