March 18, 1998
Mr. Keith W. McCart
62 Rice Lane
White Creek, NY 12057
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, unless otherwise indicated.
Dear Mr. McCart:
I have received your letter of March 18 in which you wrote that the
Superintendent of the Hoosick Falls Central School District:
"...has refused to certify the correctness of the
copies of these records stating that she has a
letter from your office that says she does not
have to certify the correctness of records."
As you are aware, §89(3) of the Freedom of Information Law states
in relevant part that, in response to a request for a record, "the entity shall
provide a copy of such record and certify to the correctness of such copy if
so requested..." From my perspective, the certification required by the
Freedom of Information Law does not involve an assertion that the contents
of a record are accurate, but rather that a copy of a record made available in
response to a request is a true copy.
Stated differently, the Freedom of Information Law deals with the
extent to which records must be disclosed or may be withheld. Insofar as
records are accessible under the Law, the public has the right to review them
or obtain copies, irrespective of the accuracy of their contents. In an example
given to the Superintendent during a telephone conversation, it was advised
that if a record states that 2 + 2 = 5, the record would be public. Under
§89(3), the certification would indicate that a copy of the record is a true
copy, not that the content of the record is accurate.
Lastly, since you asked whether Superintendent Chase may have
received a letter from this office on the matter, copies of advisory opinions are
routinely sent on request to any person, and it is possible that copies of
opinions have been forwarded to Ms. Chase in the past over the course of
years. Further, as indicated above, the matter was discussed via telephone in
response to her inquiry.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the
Freedom of Information Law and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Nancy B. Chase