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FOIL-AO-13990

From: Robert Freeman
To:
Date: 4/3/03 12:39PM
Subject:

Dear

I have received your inquiry in which you asked whether, in my view, "it is necessary for the
Pittsford School District to make [you] FOIL for budget information which should be readily
available to any tax payer who might want to see it."

In this regard, it is not "necessary" that the District require the public to request records pursuant
to the FOIL; clearly, it has the authority to accept oral or informal requests, without any reference
or citation to the FOIL. However, since that law pertains to all government agency records, and
since section 89(3) indicates that an agency may require that a request be made in writing, I
believe that an agency, such as a school district, may generally do so. The same provision states
that an agency has up to five business days to respond. That is not to suggest that the five day
limitation should be used as a means of delaying disclosure; on the contrary, if records are clearly
public and readily retrievable, I do not believe that there would be valid basis for delaying
disclosure.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are instances in which the District is required by other
provisions of law to disclose certain records. In those situations, the Freedom of Information
Law, in my view, would not apply. For example, a key provision in the budget process is § 1716
of the Education Law, which in subdivision (1) requires the preparation of "a detailed statement
in writing of the amount of money which will be required for the ensuing year for school
purposes, specifying the several purposes and the amount for each". Subdivision (2) states in
relevant part that the statement must be completed at least seven days befor the budget hearing
and that "copies thereof shall be prepared and made available, upon request, to residents within
the district...." Due to the specific direction offered in the Education Law regarding a particular
record, I believe that §1716 essentially supersedes the Freedom of Information Law and that a
request need not be made under or refer to the latter for the proposed budget or the other items
described in ensuing provisions in §1716.

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

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director
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