February 22, 2010
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 information presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter in which you wrote that “Public Officers Law 87 requires that the committee be provided with an electronic list of records from each agency.” You asked whether such a list is accessible to the public.
In this regard, I know of no such provision. Section 87(4)(c) requires that each “state agency” that maintains a website is required to post information regarding the Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Protection Laws on its website and link to the website of the Committee on Open Government. However, there is no requirement that a “list of records” be posted. Further, that provision pertains only to state agencies; it does not apply to entities of local government, such as counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, etc.
I point out that §87(3)(c) requires that each agency: “shall maintain.....a reasonably detailed current list by subject matter of all records in the possession of the agency, whether or not available under this article.” The “subject matter list” need not consist of an index or list of every record maintained by an agency; rather, it must consist of a categorization of the kinds of records maintained by an agency. That provision is applicable to all agencies, state and local, and it has been suggested that entities of local government adopt or use as a guide the schedules developed by the State Archives that indicate minimum periods of retention of records. The retention schedules are more detailed than a subject matter list must be. Through the review of the retention schedule applicable to towns, for example, the “MU-1", one can learn of the kinds of records typically maintained by all towns and the period of time in which records must be retained. I believe that the MU-1 is available on the website of the State Education Department, which houses the State Archives.
Section 87(3)(c) also requires that state agencies (not others) must post their subject matter lists on their websites, and that if a state agency has no website, its subject matter list must be posted on the Committee on Open Government website.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding and that I have been of assistance.