July 3, 2003
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, unless otherwise indicated.
I have received your letter of June 19 concerning a request made under the Freedom of Information Law to Chanango County for a "911 report" that was withheld on the basis of §308(4) of the County Law. In addition, as required by §89(4)(a) of the Freedom of Information Law, the Chairman of the Chenango County Board of Supervisors sent a copy of his determination of your appeal to this office.
In short, I agree with the determination. The County Law consists of a series of statutes enacted by the State Legislature, and those statutes apply to every county outside of New York City. Section 308 is not a local enactment; on the contrary, it is a state statute.
Relevant in terms of rights of access is the first ground for denial in the Freedom of Information Law, §87(2)(a), which pertains to records that "are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute." One such statute is §308(4), which states that:
"Records, in whatever form they may be kept, of calls made to a municipality's E911 system shall not be made available to or obtained by any entity or person, other than that municipality's public safety agency, another government agency or body, or a private entity or a person providing medical, ambulance or other emergency services, and shall not be utilized for any commercial purpose other than the provision of emergency services."
Based on the foregoing, "records...of calls" means either a recording or a transcript of the communication between a person making a 911 emergency call, and the employee who receives the call. Records of that nature are, in my view, exempted from disclosure by statute. I do not believe, however, that §308(4) can validly be construed to mean records regarding or relating to a 911 call. If that were so, innumerable police and fire reports, including arrest reports and police blotter entries, would be exempt from disclosure in their entirety.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Hon. Richard B. Decker
Richard W. Breslin