The Impact of FOIL Requests on the Village Office  |  October 18, 2007

The purpose of this editorial is to give the reader an understanding of FOIL requests and their impact on our Village Office.

FOIL {“Freedom of Information Law”} requests are governed by both State and Federal laws. The following Q&A may be helpful in explaining this topic.

Is the Village Government subject to laws governing FOIL requests?
Yes. All municipal governing bodies are subject to the law.

What Village records are subject to FOIL requests?
All Village records not deemed confidential, are subject to such requests.

How long can the Village take to respond to a FOIL request?
The Village Office has five business days from receipt of a request to grant or deny access in whole or in part. If more time is needed by the Village, it must respond to the requestor in writing within five business days of the request, and take no more than an additional twenty days to respond. If a denial is made by the Village, the requestor has thirty days to appeal such denial to the Mayor for final determination.

How much can the Village charge for FOIL requests?
The Village may charge no more than twenty-five cents per page [not to exceed 9” by 14”], or the actual cost of reproduction such as in the case of blue prints or photographs, that do not lend themselves to normal photocopying methods.

Do FOIL requests apply to computer records?
Yes. The term “record” is defined to include all information kept, held, filed produced or reproduced in any physical form whatsoever.

Does one have to give a reason as to why their FOIL request is being made?
No. Only in the case of a request for resident addresses must a rational reason be indicated. Addresses will not be released for commercial purposes.

Can the Village deny my request because it is overly broad or too vague?
Yes. The Village may deny requests that do not reasonably describe the records being requested. The nature of the Village’s filing and record retrieval system is relevant to whether a request reasonably describes the records being sought.

With this information in mind, what has been the impact of Foil requests upon the Village Government? If you go back roughly three years, it was rare that the Village Office received more than one or two FOIL requests weekly. However, with the increase in Village litigation, the increase in proposed and existing building projects, and the increased level of political activity and change in our Government, FOIL requests from attorneys, developers, and residents have meaningfully increased on a weekly basis. It is not unusual now for the Village Office to spend four or more hours weekly addressing such requests. Thus, spending Village staff paid time responding to FOIL requests is just another non-budgetary item that we, as residents and taxpayers, have to cope with, accept, and pay for.

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