March 19, 1998
Mr. Christopher McNamara
980 Broadway, Apt. #635
Thornwood, NY 10594
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. McNamara:
I have received your letter of March 3 concerning a request for copies
of appearance tickets involving violations of the Village of Ossining building
code and/or zoning law. You have questioned the propriety of the deletion
of the names and addresses from the tickets.
From my perspective, it is likely that the names and addresses should
have been disclosed. In this regard, there is a distinction in terms of rights of
access between those situations in which a person has been found to have
engaged in a violation of law, and those in which charges against an individual
have been dismissed in his or her favor. In the latter case, records relating to
an event that did not result in a conviction ordinarily become sealed pursuant
to §160.50 or perhaps other provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law.
However, if it is determined that a person has engaged in a violation, i.e., of
the building code, the records would be available from the court in which the
proceeding occurred, such as the Village Justice Court (see Uniform Justice
Court Act, §2019-a). Further, the Court of Appeals, the State's highest court,
determined in 1984 that traffic tickets issued and lists of violations of the
Vehicle and Traffic Law compiled by the State Police during a certain period
in a county must be disclosed, unless charges were dismissed and the records
sealed pursuant to provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law [see Johnson
Newspaper Corp. v. Stainkamp, 61 NY2d 958).
Although that decision did not pertain to the kinds of tickets to which
you referred, I believe that the principle would be applicable in this instance.
In short, unless they have been sealed pursuant to statute, the records in
question, including the names and addresses, would in my opinion be
accessible from either the court or other Village office that maintains the
records. I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Marie A. Fuesy