December 1, 2009
FROM: Camille S. Jobin-Davis, Assistant 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 information presented in your correspondence.
We are in receipt of your request for an advisory opinion regarding application of the Freedom of Information Law to records maintained by the Albany County Republican Committee. Specifically, you requested records that would document the “weighted votes of each member of the City Committee and the County Committee.” When you requested such records from the County Board of Elections you were referred to the County Republican Committee, and were subsequently denied access. In this regard, we offer the following comments:
While we are unaware of any judicial interpretation of the Freedom of Information Law that deals specifically with the issue, it is our view that a political party committee falls beyond the coverage of that statute.
In brief, the Freedom of Information Law pertains to agency records, and §86(3) of the law defines the term "agency" to mean:
"any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature."
Although a political party committee may engage in functions that relate to government, we do not believe that such an entity could be characterized as a governmental entity that performs a governmental function. In short, because a political party committee is separate from government and is not part of government, we do not believe that it would fall within the requirements of the Freedom of Information Law.
We recommend that you consult with any bylaws or procedures adopted by the committee that might authorize members to access certain records.
On behalf of the Committee on Open Government, we hope that this is helpful to you.