March 3, 1993
Ms. F. J. Thompson
4525 H.H. Pkwy
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 Ms. Thompson:
I have received your letter of February 25 and the correspondence attached to it.
Your comments pertain to a request to make an appointment to inspect records of the New York City Computer and Data Communications Service Agency. You referred to a portion of a response to the request by Ms. Lena Rettig, the Agency's General Counsel and Records Access Officer. She indicated that the rules and regulations adopted by the City of New York for the administration of the Freedom of Information Law require that all requests to inspect records be made in writing. She also alluded, however, to situations in which proposed contracts advertised in the City Record are available without making a written request pursuant to the City's procurement rules. It is apparently your view that a request to inspect records need not be made in writing.
In this regard, an agency may require that a request to inspect records be made in writing. As indicated in §89(3) of the Freedom of Information Law, an agency must respond to a "written request for a record reasonably described." Further, the regulations promulgated by the Committee on Open Government, 21 NYCRR §1401.5(a), state that "An agency may require that a request be made in writing or may make records available upon oral request."
Further, I believe that an applicant for accessible records should be able to make an appointment to inspect those records during regular business hours when an agency has regular business hours. Alternatively, if an applicant cannot know precisely when he or she may have an opportunity to inspect records, it has been suggested that agencies indicate that the records will be available for inspection during business hours for a certain period, two weeks, for example, after a request has been granted. If the records are not inspected within such a specified reasonable period, it has been suggested that a request may be considered to have been withdrawn.
A copy of this response will be forwarded to Ms. Rettig.
I hope that I have been of some assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Lena Rettig, General Counsel and Records Access Officer