April 17, 1998

Ms. Karen L. Summerlin
Assistant Vice president
SUNY New Paltz
75 S. Manheim Blvd.
New Paltz, NY 12561-2499

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,
unless otherwise indicated.

Dear Ms. Summerlin:

As indicated in a telephone message, Ms. Dionie Goldin has sent a
copy of your denial of her request for records pertaining to a certain
employee's educational background to this office. According to the judicial
interpretation of the Freedom of Information Law, the information sought
should be made available to the public.

In this regard, as you are aware, the Freedom of Information Law is
based upon a presumption of access. Stated differently, all records of an
agency are available, except to the extent that records or portions thereof fall
within one or more grounds for denial appearing in §87(2)(a) through (i) of
the Law. Relevant to the matter is §87(2)(b), which states that an agency may
withhold records to the extent that disclosure would constitute "an
unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

Based on the judicial interpretation of the Freedom of Information
Law, it is clear that public officers and employees enjoy a lesser degree of
privacy than others, for it has been found in various contexts that those
individuals are required to be more accountable than others. The courts have
found that, as a general rule, records that are relevant to the performance of
the official duties of a public officer or employee are available, for disclosure
in such instances would result in a permissible rather than an unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy [see e.g., Farrell v. Village Board of Trustees,
372 NYS 2d 905 (1975); Gannett Co. v. County of Monroe, 59 AD 2d 309
(1977), aff'd 45 NY 2d 954 (1978); Sinicropi v. County of Nassau, 76 AD 2d
838 (1980); Geneva Printing Co. and Donald C. Hadley v. Village of Lyons,
Sup. Ct., Wayne Cty., March 25, 1981; Montes v. State, 406 NYS 2d 664
(Court of Claims, 1978); Powhida v. City of Albany, 147 AD 2d 236 (1989);
Scaccia v. NYS Division of State Police, 530 NYS 2d 309, 138 AD 2d 50
(1988); Steinmetz v. Board of Education, East Moriches, Sup. Ct., Suffolk
Cty., NYLJ, Oct. 30, 1980); Capital Newspapers v. Burns, 67 NY 2d 562
(1986)]. Conversely, to the extent that items relating to public officers or
employees are irrelevant to the performance of their official duties, it has been
found that disclosure would indeed constitute an unwarranted invasion of
personal privacy [see e.g., Matter of Wool, Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty., NYLJ,
Nov. 22, 1977, Minerva v. Village of Valley Stream, Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty.,
May 20, 1981 Seelig v. Sielaff, 200 AD 2d 298 (1994)].

I note that it has been specifically held that disclosure of a public
employee's educational background would not constitute an unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy and must be disclosed [see Ruberti, Girvin &
Ferlazzo v. NYS Division of State Police, 641 NYS 2d 411, 218 AD 2d 494

Additionally, in a recent judicial decision, Kwasnik v. City of New
York (Supreme Court, New York County, September 26, 1997), the court
quoted from and relied upon an opinion rendered by this office and held that
portions of resumes must be disclosed. The Committee's opinion stated that:

"If, for example, an individual must have
certain types of experience, educational
accomplishments or certifications as a
condition precedent to serving in [a] particular
position, those aspects of a resume or
application would in my view be relevant to
the performance of the official duties of not
only the individual to whom the record
pertains, but also the appointing agency or
officers ... to the extent that records sought
contain information pertaining to the
requirements that must have been met to hold
the position, they should be disclosed, for I
believe that disclosure of those aspects of
documents would result in a permissible rather
than an unwarranted invasion [of] personal
privacy. Disclosure represents the only means
by which the public can be aware of whether
the incumbent of the position has met the
requisite criteria for serving in that position.

"The Opinion further stated that:

"Although some aspects of one's employment
history may be withheld, the fact of a person's
public employment is a matter of public
record, for records identifying public
employees, their titles and salaries must be
prepared and made available under the
Freedom of Information Law [see §87(3)(b)]."

In short, I believe that a public employee's educational background, as
well as other items pertinent to that person's employment, must be disclosed.

If you would like to discuss the matter, please feel free to contact me.
I hope that I have been of assistance.


Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director


cc: Dionie Goldin
Carolyn Pasley