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August 18, 1999

 

Mr. Jim Martin
2143 S. Geddes Street
Syracuse, NY 13207

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. Martin:

I have received your letter of July 20 and the correspondence attached to it between
yourself and Mr. Robert L. Jokajtys, Director of Human Resources at Onondaga Community
College. You have sought guidance concerning your efforts in obtaining information from
the College. Having reviewed the correspondence, I am in partial agreement (and
disagreement) with you and Mr. Jokajtys.

In this regard, I would agree with your contention that portions of existing records
likely would include reference to an employee's academic degrees and general educational
background. Insofar as that information appears within existing records, the College would
not be preparing a new record; it would be disclosing portions of existing records. Further,
it is reiterated that it has been held judicially that portions of records indicating one's
educational background must be disclosed [Ruberti, Girvin & Ferlazzo v. Division of State
Police, 218 AD2d 494 (1996)].

The other aspect of your request involves "copies of the applicable provisions and
pages of the Civil Service Law and applicable rules promulgated by the Department of Civil
Service which govern the creation and appointment of management confidential positions"
(emphasis yours). In my view, the foregoing is not a request for records. In essence, it is a
request for an interpretation of law requiring a judgment. Any number of provisions of law
might be "applicable", and a disclosure of some of them, based on one's knowledge, may be
incomplete due to an absence of expertise regarding the content and interpretation of each
such law. Two people, even or perhaps especially two attorneys, might differ as to the
applicability of a given provision of law. In contrast, if a request is made, for example, for
"section 209 of the Civil Service Law", no interpretation or judgment is necessary, for
sections of law appear numerically and can readily be identified. That kind of request, in my
opinion, would involve a portion of a record that must be disclosed. Again, a request for laws
that might be "applicable" is not, in my view, a request for a record as envisioned by the
Freedom of Information Law.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify misunderstandings and that I have been of
assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

RJF:jm

cc: Robert L. Jokajtys