February 11, 2013
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.
This is in response to your request for guidance regarding the online posting of eligibility lists for civil service exams administered by the County Department of Civil Service.
We are pleased to hear that your agency is considering availing itself of the efficiencies associated with making records available online. Proactive disclosure, in our experience, has great merit, including alleviating the burden on agencies to respond to written requests for copies of records that are readily available and clearly public.
The content of an eligibility list, such as the one that you attached to your request, includes the type of exam, the date it was administered, the date the list was established and when it expires, the names of those who passed the exam and are eligible for appointment, grades received, and the employee’s standing on the list. There is nothing on the list that, if disclosed, would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. Moreover, eligible lists have been available for decades pursuant to the regulations of the Department of Civil Service, §71.3. Accordingly, the lists are provided to the public upon request.
With the proliferation of material available online, many are concerned with issues of privacy, and in that regard, we note that while some may object to online availability of records of this nature, in our opinion, when disclosure would not constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, when the records are frequently requested, readily available and clearly public, there should be little reason not to post online.
The Freedom of Information Law does not require that any particular record be made available online; however, the Open Meetings Law was recently amended to require that an agency post records scheduled to be discussed during an open meeting, to the extent practicable, prior to the meeting. (OML §103[e].) With greater frequency, the Legislature is adopting mandatory online publication of certain government records.
Accordingly, we support efforts to make eligibility lists available online.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to offer guidelines on this issue.
Camille S. Jobin-Davis