January 30, 1995
Hon. Norman J. Levy
Member of the Senate
30 South Ocean Avenue
Freeport, NY 11520
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.
Dear Senator Levy:
I have received your letter of January 24 in which you sought my views concerning an inquiry made by a constituent.
According to the correspondence that you enclosed, the constituent directed a request to the Manager-Benefit Administration of the Long Island Railroad in which he sought "a list of names and addresses of all the LIRR retired employees who retired prior to October 1, 1986 that are represented by the National Transportation Supervisor Association (NTSA) formerly ARSA 853." The request was denied.
In this regard, I offer the following comments.
First, §89(7) of the Freedom of Information Law specifies that: "Nothing in this article shall require the disclosure of the home address of an officer or employee, former officer or employee, or of a retiree of a public employees' retirement system..." As such, an agency need not disclose home addresses of present or former public employees, including retirees.
Second, as you may be aware, §87(2)(b) of the Freedom of Information Law enables an agency to withhold records when disclosure would constitute "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." It appears that the request involves those who had been represented by a union. If that is so, although I am unaware of any judicial decision that deals specifically with factual circumstances described in the correspondence, I believe that the situation presented in Matter of Wool (Supreme Court, Nassau County, NYLJ, Nov. 22, 1977) is most analogous. In that case, the issue involved a request for a record that identified public employees by name and salary, and the same record included a column indicating which among the employees had deductions made for payment of union dues. The court held that salary information is clearly available, but that the column involving the payment of union dues could be withheld as an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, stating that "[m]embership in the CSEA has no relevance to an employee's on the job performance or the functioning of his or her employer."
In short, based on the language of the Freedom of Information Law and its judicial interpretation, it is my view that the Long Island Railroad is not obliged to disclose the information in question.
I hope that I have been of some assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman