May 17, 1999



Mr. David Garcia
Niagara Unit
P.O. Box 904
Ray Brook, NY 12977-0300

Dear Mr. Garcia:

I have received your letter of May 10 in which you requested records from this office
pertaining to criminal charges concerning yourself.

In this regard, the Committee on Open Government is authorized to provide advice
concerning the Freedom of Information Law. The Committee does not maintain records
generally and it does not possess the records of your interest.

If you are seeking records maintained by a unit of state or local government in New
York, a request may be made to the agency's designated records access officer. The records
access officer has the duty of coordinating an agency's response to requests. I note, too, that
§89(3) of the Freedom of Information Law requires that an applicant must "reasonably
describe" the records sought. Therefore, a request should include sufficient detail to enable
agency staff to locate and identify the records.

Lastly, the statute that you cited is the federal Freedom of Information Act, which
applies only to federal agencies. While that Act authorizes an agency to waive fees in certain
circumstances, there is no similar provision in the New York Freedom of Information Law.
Therefore, an agency subject to the New York Freedom of Information Law may charge its
established fees, even if a request is made by an indigent inmate (see Whitehead v.
Morgenthau, 552 NYS2d 518 (1990)].

I hope that I have been of assistance.



Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director