July 17, 2000
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
I have received your letter of June 8, in which you indicated that the foundation that
you represent "is a not for profit organization whose mission is to provide resources,
education and assistance to employees and/or contractors who are working on public works
As we discussed last year, it has been advised by this office and held judicially that
personally identifying details that appear on payroll records pertaining to employees of
private entities, such as names, addresses and social security numbers, may be withheld on
the ground that disclosure would constitute "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy"
[see Freedom of Information Law, §87(2)(b); Joint Industry Board of Electrical Industry v.
Nolan, 159 AD2d 241 (1990)]. That being so, you asked whether it "would be appropriate
for the Foundation for Fair Contracting to request the distribution of [y]our literature by the
owner of public works jobs with any expenses being borne by the Foundation."
From my perspective, an agency subject to the Freedom of Information Law is not
required to provide a means of distributing information to persons whose identities may be
protected. However, there have been circumstances in which it has been recommended that a
person or entity supply materials (i.e., literature, stamped envelopes, etc.) to an agency to
enable the agency to distribute the materials, and in which, in the spirit of cooperation, the
agency has agreed to do so.
Based on those previous instances in which agencies have agreed to cooperate in an
effort to provide material of interest to the recipients while concurrently protecting the
recipients' privacy, I believe that it would be fully appropriate to make a request in the
manner you described.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman