December 17, 1993
Ms. Cindy Converse, President
Warren County Assessor's Association
Town of Warrensburg
Warrensburg, NY 12885
Dear Ms. Converse:
Thank you for your letter of December 16 and your kind words.
From my perspective, our gathering was enjoyable, and I hope that
it was worthwhile for you and your colleagues.
With respect to the SBEA opinion to which you referred, which
was issued in 1975, I believe that it is out of date. That opinion
was based on §51 of the General Municipal Law, which states in
general that records of a municipality are available. However, in
responding to a contention that §51 requires that all records of a
municipality be made available, regardless of their contents, the
state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, held in 1985 that:
"Such a result would nullify the FOIL
exemptions, which the Legislature - presumably
aware of General Municipal Law §51 at the time
it enacted FOIL - could not have intended. To
give effect to both statutes, the FOIL
exemptions must be read as having engrafted,
as a matter of public policy, certain
limitations on the disclosure of otherwise
accessible records" [Xerox Corporation v. Town
of Webster, 65 NY 131, 490 NYS 2d 488, 489
Therefore, if portions of records would, if disclosed, result in an
unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under §87(2)(b) of the
Freedom of Information Law, I believe that they may be withheld,
notwithstanding §51 of the General Municipal Law.
If you would like to discuss the matter further, please feel
free to call.
Robert J. Freeman