Professor Freeman was pounding into our heads, among other things, one of two absolute rules of how Freedom of Information Law in New York operates: the FOIL request may be made by any PERSON, anywhere in the world, and the government entity to whom the FOIL request is made, does not have a right to impose additional information requirement beyond indication that "a person" is asking for information and beyond the contact information that person provides.
(The second rule, which is not relevant for this blog, was that the government may never ask for the reason why the records are requested - the rule that government entities in New York regularly violate when FOIL requests are made).
Also, government entities must provide various means of making FOIL requests.
With these rules in mind, I went to the website of New York State Senate today to verify NYS Senate's contact information for a FOIL request.
The easiest way to make a FOIL request is by e-mail. An e-mail allows the inquirer to keep an electronic proof that the request was made, what kind of request was made, when it was made and that the government entity received the request.
Mail does not give such assurances, even certified or overnight mail, because the government can always claim that it received an empty envelope.
The "fill-in-your-info" option on the website of the government does not provide to the inquirer any proof that the FOIL request was made.
NYS Senate has the worst possible option - the "fill-in-your-info" option.
Here is NYS Senate's FOIL form as obtained from its website today:
This is the next TWO FOIL violations.
The government entity has absolutely no right to require from people their home addresses as a condition of satisfying FOIL requests.
Moreover, a form for "country" is not in there, so NYS Senate only satisfies FOIL requests coming from within the United States, another FOIL violation.
See, your business address is "optional", but your home address is required? There is no such requirement in new York Public Officers Law.
Disclosure of the inquirer's phone number and business address is optional, but e-mail and home address are required? There is no permission in Public Officers Law to condition disclosure under FOIL on whether the inquirer gave away to the government his or her home and e-mail address, but not just the "optional" telephone number.
For example, if the records requested exist on a computer, it is as easy to print on paper, as it is into a PDF file, to then send it electronically.
Even though this is a routine request to confirm that you are a human and not a robot, you already confirmed it by now by putting in your personal information, so this requirement is completely redundant.
Only after you have satisfied all of the above, NYS Senate allows you to push the "submit" button:
Submitting such a FOIL request provides to you absolutely no confirmation that you did submit a FOIL request.
For legislators to violate the law they themselves enacted - not amend, legislators have a right to do that, but violate without amending it?
And, the beauty of it is that 7 YEARS AGO, an advisory opinion of the New York Committee for the Open Government of August 12, 2009, stated the following, in regards to NYS Senate's stubborn insistence of charging people $.25 for paper records instead of sending them by e-mail:
"...while I am unfamiliar with the means by which the record of your interested is stored, I believe that it can be assumed in most instances that records are now commonly prepared or generated on computers, as in the case of this response, which is being drafted on a pc. Once a record is prepared and stored electronically, it can be transferred to an electronic storage medium, i.e., a disk, or transmitted electronically, i.e., via email."
7 years down the road, NYS Senate continues with the same FOIL violation it was already caught in back in August of 2009.
It's New York.
It's the order of business.