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July 31, 2001

 

E-MAIL

TO: Cheryl Jaffe<sesser@ll.mit.edu>

FROM: Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff
advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.

Dear Ms. Jaffe:

Your letter addressed to the Department of State has been forwarded to the Committee on Open
Government. The Committee, a unit of the Department, is authorized to provide advice and opinions
relating to the Freedom of Information Law. You asked why the Division of State Police can charge fifteen
dollars for a report rather than "the prescribed 25 cents per page."

In this regard, §87(1)(b)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Law provides that agencies can charge
up to twenty-five cents per photocopy up to nine by fourteen inches or the actual cost of reproducing other
records (i.e., computer tapes or disks), unless a different is prescribed by statute. Therefore, in the context
of your question, unless an act of the State Legislature authorizes an agency to charge in excess of twenty-
five cents per photocopy, it would be limited to that fee.

One of the rare instances in which an agency may charge a fee different from that generally
permitted by the Freedom of Information Law relates to the situation that you described. Specifically, §66-
a of the Public Officers Law, a statute that deals with accident reports and certain other records maintained
by the Division of State Police, provides in subdivision (2) that:

"Notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-three hundred seven of
the civil practice law and rules, the public officers law, or any other law to
the contrary, the division of state police shall charge fees for the search
and copy of accident reports and photographs. A search fee of fifteen
dollars per accident report shall be charged, with no additional fee for a
photocopy. An additional fee of fifteen dollars shall be charged for a
certified copy of any accident report. A fee of twenty-five dollars per
photograph or contact sheet shall be charged. The fees for investigative
reports shall be the same as those for accident reports."

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that a statute separate from the Freedom of Information Law authorizes
the Division of State Police to charge fifteen dollars for the search and copy of accident reports.

I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that I have been of
assistance.

RJF:tt