August 26, 1996
Mr. Michael A. Kless
87 Payne Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14220
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 Mr. Kless:
I have received your letter of August 17, as well as the materials attached to it.
According to the correspondence, in response to a recent request for copies of records of the City of Buffalo, you were informed that a money order would serve as the only acceptable method of payment. If compelled to use a money order, you complained that your cost of obtaining photocopies would exceed twenty-five cents per photocopy.
In this regard, there is nothing in the Freedom of Information Law that pertains specifically to the means by which fees for copies should be paid. In the only decision of which I am aware, which, I note, was rendered in Erie County, it was found that the County Board of Elections "failed to provide a reasonable and rationale basis to justify their policy of requiring payment of fees for copying of records in the form of only bank checks or money orders", and it was ordered that the agency be required to accept payment in United States currency as well [Reese v. Mahoney, Supreme Court, Erie County, June 28, 1984]. Based on the decision reached in Reese, I believe that the City of Buffalo is required to accept United States currency as legal tender for payment for photocopies prepared in response to a request under the Freedom of Information Law. I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Kathleen E. O'Hara, Corporation Counsel
Lt. Mark Makowski, F.O.I.L. Officer