June 7, 2007
FROM: Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director
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.
I have received your letter and the materials attached to it. Please accept my apologies for the delay in response.
You questioned the propriety of a policy adopted by the City of Yonkers requiring that “[a]ll e-mail requests must use [its] FOIL request form.” In this regard, it has been recommended that agencies create email addresses dedicated to the receipt of requests and that forms may be developed in an effort to expedite the public’s ability to request records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law. Further, as required by §89(3)(b) of the Freedom of Information Law, the Committee on Open Government has created model forms that may be used by the public when requesting records via email and by agencies for use in responding to those requests. However, those forms are merely recommended models or templates, and it has been advised that agencies may choose to adopt the form recommended by the Committee, alter it, or create its own form. Notwithstanding that guidance, there is nothing in the Freedom of Information Law that requires that a person seeking records must use an agency’s prescribed form. That being so, although use of the City of Yonkers form would likely be of benefit to a person seeking City records, I do not believe that the City may require those seeking records via email to use the City’s form.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
cc: Corporation Counsel