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September 27, 2001

FOIL-AO-12975

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

I have received your letter of August 29 and a letter addressed to you by Jeffrey Eichner, an
attorney for the City of Rochester, concerning the fees that the City charges when making accident
reports available.

Specifically, Mr. Eichner wrote that the Rochester Police Department:

"...purchased special equipment in order to be able to respond
electronically to requests made by insurance companies and adjusters
for accident reports. When an electronic response is made, a fee of
$2.00 has been established per report (regardless of the number of
pages). This fee helps offset the cost involved in this type of
response. The Rochester Police Department believes that the
insurance companies and adjusters are very satisfied with this type of
response. However, the Rochester Police Department also maintains
a window at which citizens can obtain accident reports at the cost of
25 cents per page."

You wrote that it is your understanding that "no matter how a report is produced, the charge is
twenty five cents per page."

It appears that you may misunderstand the Freedom of Information Law. In this regard,
§87(1)(b)(iii) of that statute deals with the fees that agencies may charge for reproducing records,
and it contains two components. One deals with photocopies of records up to nine by fourteen
inches, in which case, as you are aware, an agency may charge a maximum of twenty-five cents per
photocopy. The other involves any other records, i.e., those larger than nine by fourteen inches or
those that cannot be reproduced by means of photocopying, such as tape recordings or computer
tapes or disks, in which case the fee is based on the "actual cost" of reproduction.

Further, as I interpret Mr. Eichner's remarks, the fee of two dollars for accident reports does
not involve the reproduction of records, but rather a service provided by the City in which insurance
companies and adjusters may gain online access to accident reports. From my perspective, there is
nothing in the Freedom of Information Law that requires agencies to make records available online
via the Internet. When they choose to do so, they would be acting above and beyond the
responsibilities imposed upon them by law, and in those cases, the provisions in the Freedom of
Information Law pertaining to fees, in my view, do not apply.

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

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

RJF:jm

cc: Jeffrey Eichner