July 28, 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.
Dear Mr. Karlin:
I have received your letter and enclosed copies of the opinions that you requested.
In addition, you referred to a situation in which you sought records from which items were redacted. As a consequence, you were required by the agency “to pay an additional 25 cents fee for each page, resulting in a total fee of 50 Cents per page.” You asked whether it “is proper for an agency to charge double the statutory fee simply because a single word must be redacted from the record.”
In this regard, there are many instances in which portions of records may properly be redacted in accordance with the exceptions to rights of access delineated in §87(2). In those situations, it has been advised by this office and held judicially that the applicant does not have the right to inspect the records (see VanNess v. Center for Animal Care and Control, Supreme Court, New York County, January 28, 1999). Rather, in order to obtain the accessible information contained within records that have undergone redaction, upon payment of the established fee, I believe that the agency would be obliged to disclose those portions of the records after having made appropriate deletions from a copy of the record.
I do not believe, however, that an agency may charge a fee for photocopying twice for purposes of administrative convenience. When one page is made available following redactions, an agency may, in my opinion, charge a maximum of twenty-five cents per photocopy. That it makes two copies, for purposes of administrative convenience or some other reason, would not in my view justify the assessment of a higher fee. I point out that redactions can be made in many ways, i.e., from a computer, in which case a printout of the page following redactions does not involve photocopying, or by using a stencil or some other covering that prevents material that may properly be withheld from being read.
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman