May 6, 2005
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.
I have received your letter and the correspondence attached to it. You referred to a request made under the Freedom of Information Law to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. As I understand the situation, more than four hundred pages of the documents requested are kept at the Division’s Albany offices, and the Division offered to make them available to you for inspection in Albany at no charge. The remaining documents, which consist of thirty-nine pages, are kept in the Division’s New York City offices. You were told that those records would be mailed to you or made available in Albany following payment of twenty-five cents per photocopy.
In my opinion, the Division’s response was appropriate and consistent with law. Certainly the public has the right to inspect records accessible under the Freedom of Information Law at no charge at the location where the records are ordinarily maintained. For that reason, you have the right to inspect records in Albany without payment of any fee. However, when records are kept in a different location, there is no obligation imposed upon an agency to transfer the records to a location convenient to the person seeking to inspect those records. In that circumstance, the applicant for the records has two options that may be exercised to gain access: he or she may travel to the location where the records are kept and inspect them at no charge; or, alternatively, if he or she does not want to travel to that location, that person may request copies of the records. In that event, §87(1)(b)(iii) of the Freedom of Information Law authorizes an agency to charge up to twenty-five cents per photocopy.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: David Diamond