The NY Freedom of Information Law

The following is the full text of the NY State Freedom of Information Law, as amended. The NY FOI Law has bearing on the access by private citizens to records held by the NY State Government and also to those held by any county, city, town or village government in the state of New York.

Public Officers Law, Laws 1909, Chap. 51

AN ACT in relation to public officers, constituting chapter forty-seven of the consolidated laws. Became a law February 17, 1909, with the approval of the Governor. Passed, three-fifths being present. The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

CHAPTER 47 OF THE CONSOLIDATED LAWS
PUBLIC OFFICERS LAW
Article 1. Short title; definitions (Secs. 1, 2)
Article 2. Appointment and qualification of public officers (Secs. 3-19)
Article 2-A. Actions on official bonds or undertakings (Secs. 20-28)
Article 3. Creation and filling of vacancies (Secs. 30-43)
Article 4. Powers and duties of public officers (Secs. 60-79)
Article 5. Delivery of public books (Sec. 80)
Article 6. Freedom of information law (Secs. 84-90)
Atricle 6-A. Personal privacy protection law ( 91-99)
Article 7. Open meetings law (Secs. 100-111)
Article 8. Construction; laws repealed; when to take effect (Secs. 115-117).

Sec. 84. Legislative declaration. The legislature hereby finds that a free society is maintained when government is responsive and responsible to the public, and when the public is aware of governmental actions. The more open a government is with its citizenry, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government. As state and local government services increase and public problems become more sophisticated and complex and therefore harder to solve, and with the resultant increase in revenues and expenditures, it is incumbent upon the state and its localities to extend public accountability wherever and whenever feasible. The people's right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. The legislature therefore declares that government is the public's business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government in accordance with the provisions of this article.

Sec. 85. Short title. This article shall be known and may be cited as the "Freedom of Information Law."

Sec. 86. Definitions. As used in this article, unless the context requires otherwise:
1. "Judiciary" means the courts of the state, including any municipal or district court, whether or not of record.
2. "State legislature" means the legislature of the state of New York, including any committee, subcommittee, joint committee, select committee, or commission thereof.
3. "Agency" means any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature.
4. "Record" means any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever including, but not limited to, reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes.

Sec. 87. Access to agency records.
1. (a) Within sixty days after the effective date of this article, the governing body of each public corporation shall promulgate uniform rules and regulations for all agencies in such public corporation pursuant to such general rules and regulations as may be promulgated by the committee on open government in conformity with the provisions of this article, pertaining to the administration of this article.
....(b) Each agency shall promulgate rules and regulations, in conformity with this article and applicable rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (a) of this subdivision, and pursuant to such general rules and regulations as may be promulgated by the committee on open government in conformity with the provisions of this article, pertaining to the availability of records and procedures to be followed, including, but not limited to:
..........i. the times and places such records are available;
.........ii. the persons from whom such records may be obtained, and
........iii. the fees for copies of records which shall not exceed twenty-five cents per photocopy not in excess of nine inches by fourteen inches, or the actual cost of reproducing any other record, except when a different fee is otherwise prescribed by statute.
2. Each agency shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying all records, except that such agency may deny access to records or portions thereof that:
.....(a) are specifically exempted from disclosure by state or federal statute;
.....(b) if disclosed would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-nine of this article;
.....(c) if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards or collective bargaining negotiations;
.....(d) are trade secrets or are submitted to an agency by a commercial enterprise or derived from information obtained from a commercial enterprise and which if disclosed would cause substantial injury to the competitive position of the subject enterprise;
.....(e) are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would:
...........i. interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings;
..........ii. deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication;
.........iii. identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation; or
..........iv. reveal criminal investigative techniques or procedures, except routine techniques and procedures; .....(f) if disclosed would endanger the life or safety of any person;
.....(g) are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not:
...........i. statistical or factual tabulations or data;
..........ii. instructions to staff that affect the public;
.........iii. final agency policy or determinations; or
.......*iv. external audits, including but not limited to audits performed by the comptroller and the federal government; or
.......*NB Repealed 99/01/01
.....(h) are examination questions or answers which are requested prior to the final administration of such questions. .....(i) are computer access codes.
...*(j) are photographs, microphotographs, videotape or other recorded images prepared under authority of section eleven hundred eleven-a of the vehicle and traffic law.
...*NB Repealed 99/12/01 3. Each agency shall maintain:
....(a) a record of the final vote of each member in every agency proceeding in which the member votes;
....(b) a record setting forth the name, public office address, title and salary of every officer or employee of the agency; and
.....(c) a reasonably detailed current list by subject matter, of all records in the possession of the agency, whether or not available under this article.
4. (a) Each state agency which maintains records containing trade secrets, to which access may be denied pursuant to paragraph (d) of subdivision two of this section, shall promulgate regulations in conformity with the provisions of subdivision five of section eighty-nine of this article pertaining to such records, including, but not limited to the following:
............(1) the manner of identifying the records or parts;
............(2) the manner of identifying persons within the agency to whose custody the records or parts will be charged and for whose inspection and study the records will be made available;
............(3) the manner of safeguarding against any unauthorized access to the records.
.....(b) As used in this subdivision the term "agency" or "state agency" means only a state department, board, bureau, division, council or office and any public corporation the majority of whose members are appointed by the governor.

Sec. 88. Access to state legislative records.
1. The temporary president of the senate and the speaker of the assembly shall promulgate rules and regulations for their respective houses in conformity with the provisions of this article, pertaining to the availability, location and nature of records, including, but not limited to:
.....(a) the times and places such records are available;
.....(b) the persons from whom such records may be obtained;
.....(c) the fees for copies of such records, which shall not exceed twenty-five cents per photocopy not in excess of nine inches by fourteen inches, or the actual cost of reproducing any other record, except when a different fee is otherwise prescribed by law.
2. The state legislature shall, in accordance with its published rules, make available for public inspection and copying:
.....(a) bills and amendments thereto, fiscal notes, introducers' bill memoranda, resolutions and amendments thereto, and index records;
.....(b) messages received from the governor or the other house of the legislature, and home rule messages;
.....(c) legislative notification of the proposed adoption of rules by an agency;
.....(d) transcripts or minutes, if prepared, and journal records of public sessions including meetings of committees and subcommittees and public hearings, with the records of attendance of members thereat and records of any votes taken;
.....(e) internal or external audits and statistical or factual tabulations of, or with respect to, material otherwise available for public inspection and copying pursuant to this section or any other applicable provision of law;
.....(f) administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect members of the public;
.....(g) final reports and formal opinions submitted to the legislature;
.....(h) final reports or recommendations and minority or dissenting reports and opinions of members of committees, subcommittees, or commissions of the legislature;
...*(j) external audits conducted pursuant to section ninety-two of the legislative law and schedules issued pursuant to subdivision two of section ninety of the legislative law;
...*NB Repealed 99/01/01
*(j) any other files, records, papers or documents required by law to be made available for public inspection and copying.
...*NB Effective 99/01/01
...*(k) any other files, records, papers or documents required by law to be made available for public inspection and copying.
...*NB Repealed Effective 99/01/01
3. Each house shall maintain and make available for public inspection and copying:
.....(a) a record of votes of each member in every session and every committee and subcommittee meeting in which the member votes;
.....(b) a record setting forth the name, public office address, title, and salary of every officer or employee; and
.....(c) a current list, reasonably detailed, by subject matter of any records required to be made available for public inspection and copying pursuant to this section.

Sec. 89. General provisions relating to access to records; certain cases. The provisions of this section apply to access to all records, except as hereinafter specified:
1. (a) The committee on open government is continued and shall consist of the lieutenant governor or the delegate of such officer, the secretary of state or the delegate of such officer, whose office shall act as secretariat for the committee, the commissioner of the office of general services or the delegate of such officer, the director of the budget or the delegate of such officer, and seven other persons, none of whom shall hold any other state or local public office except the representative of local governments as set forth herein, to be appointed as follows: five by the governor, at least two of whom are or have been representatives of the news media, one of whom shall be a representative of local government who, at the time of appointment, is serving as a duly elected officer of a local government, one by the temporary president of the senate, and one by the speaker of the assembly. The persons appointed by the temporary president of the senate and the speaker of the assembly shall be appointed to serve, respectively, until the expiration of the terms of office of the temporary president and the speaker to which the temporary president and speaker were elected. The four persons presently serving by appointment of the governor for fixed terms shall continue to serve until the expiration of their respective terms. Thereafter, their respective successors shall be appointed for terms of four years. The member representing local government shall be appointed for a term of four years, so long as such member shall remain a duly elected officer of a local government. The committee shall hold no less than two meetings annually, but may meet at any time. The members of the committee shall be entitled to reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in the discharge of their duties.
.....(b) The committee shall:
...........i. furnish to any agency advisory guidelines, opinions or other appropriate information regarding this article;
..........ii. furnish to any person advisory opinions or other appropriate information regarding this article;
.........iii. promulgate rules and regulations with respect to the implementation of subdivision one and paragraph (c) of subdivision three of section eighty-seven of this article;
.........iv. request from any agency such assistance, services and information as will enable the committee to effectively carry out its powers and duties; and
.........v. report on its activities and findings regarding articles six and seven of this chapter, including recommendations for changes in the law, to the governor and the legislature annually, on or before December fifteenth.
2. (a) The committee on public access to records may promulgate guidelines regarding deletion of identifying details or withholding of records otherwise available under this article to prevent unwarranted invasions of personal privacy. In the absence of such guidelines, an agency may delete identifying details when it makes records available.
.....(b) An unwarranted invasion of personal privacy includes, but shall not be limited to:
............i. disclosure of employment, medical or credit histories or personal references of applicants for employment;
...........ii. disclosure of items involving the medical or personal records of a client or patient in a medical facility;
..........iii. sale or release of lists of names and addresses if such lists would be used for commercial or fund-raising purposes;
..........iv. disclosure of information of a personal nature when disclosure would result in economic or personal hardship to the subject party and such information is not relevant to the work of the agency requesting or maintaining it; or
...........v. disclosure of information of a personal nature reported in confidence to an agency and not relevant to the ordinary work of such agency.
......(c) Unless otherwise provided by this article, disclosure shall not be construed to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy pursuant to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision:
............i. when identifying details are deleted;
...........ii. when the person to whom a record pertains consents in writing to disclosure;
..........iii. when upon presenting reasonable proof of identity, a person seeks access to records pertaining to him. 2-a. Nothing in this article shall permit disclosure which constitutes an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy as defined in subdivision two of this section if such disclosure is prohibited under section ninety-six of this chapter.
3. Each entity subject to the provisions of this article, within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described, shall make such record available to the person requesting it, deny such request in writing or furnish a written acknowledgement of the receipt of such request and a statement of the approximate date when such request will be granted or denied, including, where appropriate, a statement that access to the record will be determined in accordance with subdivision five of this section. Upon payment of, or offer to pay, the fee prescribed therefor, the entity shall provide a copy of such record and certify to the correctness of such copy if so requested, or as the case may be, shall certify that it does not have possession of such record or that such record cannot be found after diligent search. Nothing in this article shall be construed to require any entity to prepare any record not possessed or maintained by such entity except the records specified in subdivision three of section eighty-seven and subdivision three of section eighty-eight.
4. (a) Except as provided in subdivision five of this section, any person denied access to a record may within thirty days appeal in writing such denial to the head, chief executive or governing body of the entity, or the person therefor designated by such head, chief executive, or governing body, who shall within ten business days of the receipt of such appeal fully explain in writing to the person requesting the record the reasons for further denial, or provide access to the record sought. In addition, each agency shall immediately forward to the committee on open government a copy of such appeal when received by the agency and the ensuing determination thereon.

.....(b) Except as provided in subdivision five of this section, a person denied access to a record in an appeal determination under the provisions of paragraph (a) of this subdivision may bring a proceeding for review of such denial pursuant to article seventy-eight of the civil practice law and rules. In the event that access to any record is denied pursuant to the provisions of subdivision two of section eighty-seven of this article, the agency involved shall have the burden of proving that such record falls within the provisions of such subdivision two. .....(c) The court in such a proceeding may assess, against such agency involved, reasonable attorney's fees and other litigation costs reasonably incurred by such person in any case under the provisions of this section in which such person has substantially prevailed, provided, that such attorney's fees and litigation costs may be recovered only where the court finds that:
............i. the record involved was, in fact, of clearly significant interest to the general public; and
...........ii. the agency lacked a reasonable basis in law for withholding the record.
5. (a) (1) A person acting pursuant to law or regulation who, subsequent to the effective date of this subdivision, submits any information to any state agency may, at the time of submission, request that the agency except such information from disclosure under paragraph (d) of subdivision two of section eighty-seven of this article. Where the request itself contains information which if disclosed would defeat the purpose for which the exception is sought, such information shall also be excepted from disclosure.
............(2) The request for an exception shall be in writing and state the reasons why the information should be excepted from disclosure.
............(3) Information submitted as provided in subparagraph one of this paragraph shall be excepted from disclosure and be maintained apart by the agency from all other records until fifteen days after the entitlement to such exception has been finally determined or such further time as ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.
.....(b) On the initiative of the agency at any time, or upon the request of any person for a record excepted from disclosure pursuant to this subdivision, the agency shall:
...........(1) inform the person who requested the exception of the agency's intention to determine whether such exception should be granted or continued;
...........(2) permit the person who requested the exception, within ten business days of receipt of notification from the agency, to submit a written statement of the necessity for the granting or continuation of such exception;
...........(3) within seven business days of receipt of such written statement, or within seven business days of the expiration of the period prescribed for submission of such statement, issue a written determination granting, continuing or terminating such exception and stating the reasons therefor; copies of such determination shall be served upon the person, if any, requesting the record, the person who requested the exception, and the committee on public access to records.
.....(c) A denial of an exception from disclosure under paragraph (b) of this subdivision may be appealed by the person submitting the information and a denial of access to the record may be appealed by the person requesting the record in accordance with this subdivision:
...........(1) Within seven business days of receipt of written notice denying the request, the person may file a written appeal from the determination of the agency with the head of the agency, the chief executive officer or governing body or their designated representatives.
...........(2) The appeal shall be determined within ten business days of the receipt of the appeal. Written notice of the determination shall be served upon the person, if any, requesting the record, the person who requested the exception and the committee on public access to records. The notice shall contain a statement of the reasons for the determination.
.....(d) A proceeding to review an adverse determination pursuant to paragraph (c) of this subdivision may be commenced pursuant to article seventy-eight of the civil practice law and rules. Such proceeding must be commenced within fifteen days of the service of the written notice containing the adverse determination provided for in subparagraph two of paragraph (c) of this subdivision.
.....(e) The person requesting an exception from disclosure pursuant to this subdivision shall in all proceedings have the burden of proving entitlement to the exception.
.....(f) Where the agency denies access to a record pursuant to paragraph (d) of subdivision two of section eighty-seven of this article, the agency shall have the burden of proving that the record falls within the provisions of such exception.
......(g) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to deny any person access, pursuant to the remaining provisions of this article, to any record or part excepted from disclosure upon the express written consent of the person who had requested the exception.
.....(h) As used in this subdivision the term "agency" or "state agency" means only a state department, board, bureau, division, council or office and any public corporation the majority of whose members are appointed by the governor.
6. Nothing in this article shall be construed to limit or abridge any otherwise available right of access at law or in equity of any party to records.
7. 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; nor shall anything in this article require the disclosure of the name or home address of a beneficiary of a public employees' retirement system or of an applicant for appointment to public employment; provided however, that nothing in this subdivision shall limit or abridge the right of an employee organization, certified or recognized for any collective negotiating unit of an employer pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law, to obtain the name or home address of any officer, employee or retiree of such employer, if such name or home address is otherwise available under this article.
8. Any person who, with intent to prevent the public inspection of a record pursuant to this article, willfully conceals or destroys any such record shall be guilty of a violation.
Sec. 90. Severability. If any provision of this article or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is adjudged invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, such judgment shall not affect or impair the validity of the other provisions of the article or the application thereof to other persons and circumstances.



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