February 28, 2006
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.
We are in receipt of your January 13, 2006 request for an advisory opinion, in follow up to our January 9, 2006 opinion letter to you. As you relate, in response to your request for copies of the village clerk-treasurer’s "W-2 earnings statements", apparently you received a list of weekly payments made to the clerk in 1990. You now question whether by providing a list rather than copies of the forms, the Village has fulfilled the terms of your request. We have also received correspondence from the village clerk-treasurer dated January 11, 2006, to which she attached copies of your request and her responses, and in which she indicated that you have never been denied access to records.
In addition to the observations and advice offered in our January 9, 2006 correspondence to you, we note that a very similar issue to yours was determined in a recent case, Boni v. Mills, Supreme Court, Ulster County, February 27, 2003. Citing the school district’s memorandum, the Court dismissed the case based on a finding that petitioner "failed to allege any FOIL violation which occurred when the District decided to provide her with copies of the District Treasurer’s monthly reports in lieu of the considerably more voluminous monthly bank statements which she had sought". Referencing the district’s memorandum, the court indicated that there was no significant difference between the 295 monthly reports of the Treasurer, and the 2,880 pages of bank statements, that those two kinds of documents "included virtually the equivalent information", and that the Treasurer’s reports were readily available in a file drawer, but that the 72 months of bank statements would involve the assignment of an employee to make redactions.
In your case, based on your description of the information you received, and based on the correspondence from the clerk-treasurer, it appears that the information provided by the Village of Ilion is essentially the same as that which is available from the requested W-2 forms, and that in providing the information in report form, similar to the school district’s allocation of resources in Boni, the village has conveyed the requested information to you in a manner which is efficient and economical.
On behalf of the Committee on Open Government, we hope this is of assistance to you.
Camille S. Jobin-Davis
cc: Hon. Gale M. Hatch