December 27, 1996
Mr. Jerry Brixner
14 Hartom Road
Rochester, NY 14624
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. Brixner:
I have received your letter of November 16 addressed to Comptroller McCall and myself.
As you may be aware, the Committee on Open Government is authorized to offer advice and opinions concerning the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Laws. This office has neither the jurisdiction nor the expertise to respond with respect to restrictions on the ability of a municipality to borrow money. As such, my comments will be restricted to consideration of the issue involving the denial of a request for records by the Town of Chili.
Specifically, you asked the Town Clerk for a list of the names and legal addresses of persons who applied to fill a vacancy on the Town Ethics Committee. She indicated that I advised that disclosure would, in my opinion, constitute "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" and that, therefore, the information could be withheld.
From my perspective, certain provisions of the Freedom of Information Law, although not directly on point, serve to provide guidance on the matter. First, as you may be aware, §87(3)(b) requires each agency to maintain a record that includes the name, public office address, title and salary of every officer or employee of the agency. As such, basic information concerning public officers and employees is clearly public, and the courts have determined in a variety of contexts that many items found within records that are relevant to the performance of the official duties of public officers and employees are available. Second, however, §89(7) provides that nothing in the Freedom of Information Law requires the disclosure of the home address of a public officer or public employee, or the name or home address of an applicant for public employment.
In my view, home addresses of public officers and employees need not be disclosed because they are largely irrelevant to the performance of one's duties. Names and addresses of applicants for appointment to public employment need not be disclosed, in all likelihood, due to the possibility of embarrassment if an applicant is not selected, and because, very simply, that person would not yet have been hired.
While an applicant for a position on the Ethics Committee would not be seeking public employment, it would seem that he or she, as a private citizen, should be accorded privacy protection in a manner analogous to an applicant for a position as a public employee.
I hope that the foregoing serves to enhance your understanding of the Freedom of Information Law and that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman
cc: Carol O'Connor, Town Clerk