June 4, 2010

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to prepare advisory opinions.  The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.


            We have received your letter regarding your request for records of the City of Buffalo pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law. We note that the City provided you with copies of “all records responsive to your request.”

             As you are aware, requests should be directed to the "records access officer" at the agency that you believe maintains the records. The records access officer has the duty of coordinating an agency’s response to requests.

             Please note that an agency has no responsibility, statutorily or otherwise, to make all of its records available for inspection, and that requests must “reasonably describe” records maintained by the agency. In Konigsberg v. Coughlin [68 NY2d 245 (1986)], the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, held that a request reasonably describes the record sought when agency staff has the ability, with reasonable effort, to locate and identify the records sought.

             In considering a request that may have been analogous to yours, the court upheld the agency's denial, stating that:

"Petitioner's actual demand transcends a normal or routine request by a taxpayer. It violates individual privacy interests of thousands of persons...and would bring in its wake an enormous administrative burden that would interfere with the day-to-day operations of an already heavily burdened bureaucracy" (Fisher & Fisher v. Davison, Supreme Court, New York Cty., Oct. 6, 1988).

            We hope that we have been of assistance.


                                                                                                ROBERT J. FREEMAN
                                                                                                Executive Director


                                                                                    BY:     Kyle Christiansen
                                                                                              Legal Intern


cc: Cavetta A. Chambers
Diane O’Gorman