May 7, 2009
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 in which you sought an opinion concerning the right to gain access to a record or perhaps a portion of record indicating the “residency” of “an appointed member of the planning board” of the Town of Mamakating.
In this regard, §89(7) of the Freedom of Information Law specifies that the home address of a present or former public officer or employee need not be disclosed. That being so, in my view, the Town is not required to disclose the residence address of a member of its planning board.
Nevertheless, I point out that the Freedom of Information Law is permissive. Stated differently, an agency, such as the Town, may withhold the home address, but is not required to do so and may, in fact, choose to do so. Further, it has been advised in a variety of instances that the zip code of residence of a public officer or employee must be disclosed. In my view, the zip code is accessible, for disclosure would not constitute “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy”, which is the standard under which personal information may be withheld [see Freedom of Information Law, §87(2)(b)]. Disclosure of a zip code in most instances would indicate that a public officer or employee resides within a particular municipality, but it would not specify his or her residence address.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman