I have received your inquiry regarding the propriety of a requirement that a certain amount of
money, 5$ in this instance, be given as "escrow" to an agency before it begins a search for
records under the Freedom of Information Law.
From my perspective, the issue involves whether the agency's requirement is reasonable. It
has been advised that an agency may require payment in advance when copies of records
have been requested, and that an agency should "estimate" the number of pages to be copied.
If, for instance, an agency charges 25 cents per photocopy and it is clear that the number of
pages requested is only 2 or 4, it would be unreasonable, in my view, to require escrow in the
amount of $5; only if the number of pages and, therefore, the eventual fee to be charged
would approach or exceed the escrow amount would such a practice be valid or reasonable.
If you would like to discuss the matter, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman
NYS Committee on Open Government
41 State Street
Albany, NY 12231
(518) 474-2518 - Phone
(518) 474-1927 - Fax
Website - www.dos.ny.gov/coog/coogwww.html