July 11, 1997
Mr. Wallace S. Nolen
Eastern Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 338
Napanoch, NY 12458-0338
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. Nolen:
As you are aware, I have received your letter of June 11. You
have sought an advisory opinion concerning "the receipt of
certified copies of financial disclosure statements" prepared under
the Ethics in Government Act and filed with the New York State
Ethics Commission, and the "refusal" of the Ethics Commission "to
furnish certified copies" of those records.
In this regard, the Ethics in Government Act states that the
provisions of the Freedom of Information Law do not apply to
records maintained by the entities created by the Act. Rather, the
Act specifies and limits the records that those entities must
disclose and states that those records "shall be available for
public inspection" [see Executive Law, §94(17)]. The language
concerning public inspection has been construed literally, and in
John v. New York State Ethics Commission, 581 NYS 2d 882, 178 AD 2d
51 (1992), it was concluded that, under the Act, photocopies of
financial disclosure statements that may be inspected need not be
I note that the Committee on Open Government has recommended
that the provisions of the Ethics in Government Act be amended to
require that the entities created by the Act prepare photocopies of
records available under the Act.
I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding
of the matter.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Peter A. Sennett