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August 3, 1993

 

 

Mr. Donald H. Piron
2626 East Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13224

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.

Dear Mr. Piron:

I have received your letter of July 28 and the materials
attached to it.

In brief, having attempted to obtain records indicating the
address of former tenants who owe you back rent, Onondaga County
has denied your request, and you have sought assistance in the
matter.

In this regard, I offer the following comments.

First, as a general matter, the Freedom of Information Law is
based upon a presumption of access. Stated differently, all
records of an agency are available, except to the extent that
records or portions thereof fall within one or more grounds for
denial appearing in §87(2)(a) through (i) of the Law.

Second, of relevance to the issue is the first ground for
denial, §87(2)(a), which pertains to records that "are specifically
exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute." One such
statute is §136 of the Social Services Law. Subdivision (1) of
§136 states in part that:

"The names and addresses of persons applying
for or receiving public assistance and care
shall not be included in any published report
or printed in any newspaper or reported at any
public meeting except meetings of the county
board of supervisors, city council, town board
or other board or body authorized and required
to appropriate funds for public assistance and
care in and for such county, city or town; nor
shall such names and addresses and the amount
received by or expended for such persons be
disclosed except to the commissioner of social
services or his authorized representative,
such county, city or town board or body or its
authorized representative, any other body or
official required to have such information
properly to discharge its or his duties, or,
by authority of such county, city or town
appropriating board or body or the social
services official of the county, city or town,
to a person or agency considered entitled to
such information."

Further, subdivision (2) of §136 states that:

"All communications and information relating
to a person receiving public assistance or
care obtained by any social services official,
service officer, or employee in the course of
his work shall be considered confidential and,
except as otherwise provided in this section,
shall be disclosed only to the commissioner of
social services, or his authorized
representative, the county board of
supervisors, city council, town board or other
board or body authorized and required to
appropriate funds for public assistance and
care in and for such county, city or town or
its authorized representative or, by authority
of the county, city or town social services
official, to a person or agency considered
entitled to such information."

Based upon the foregoing, I believe that the information in
question is exempted from disclosure pursuant to §136 of the Social
Services Law and, therefore, §87(2)(a) of the Freedom of
Information Law.

In short, while I am sympathetic, I do not believe that the
County has the authority to disclose records identifiable to
recipients of public assistance.

I hope that the foregoing seeks to enhance your understanding
of the matter.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director

RJF:jm
cc: Christina Pezzulo