Exploring claimed procedural obstacles to demands for certain records pursuant to New York's Freedom of Information Law
Kirsch v Board of Educ. of Williamsville Cent. Sch. Dist., 2017 NY Slip Op 05547, Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Addressing the Board's "broad allegation here that the [emails may] contain exempt material," the Appellate Division said that such a representation "is insufficient to overcome the presumption that the records are open for inspection . . . and categorically to deny petitioner[s] all access to the requested material."
Further, said the court, should the Board establish that a requested email contains exempt material, "the appropriate remedy is an in camera** review and disclosure of all nonexempt, appropriately redacted material."
5. Identification of the records demanded.
Noting that Kirsch and Starvaggi had "reasonably described" the requested emails thus enabling the Board to identify and produce the records, the Appellate Division, citing Konigsberg v Coughlin, 68 NY2d 245, held that the Board "cannot evade the broad disclosure provisions of [the] statute . . . upon the naked allegation that the request will require review of thousands of records."
It should be remembered that the basic concept underlying FOIL is that all government documents and records, other than those having access specifically limited by statute, are available to the public. The release of certain public records, such as those identified in Civil Rights Law §50-a, Education Law §1127 - Confidentiality of records and §33.13 Mental Hygiene Law - Clinical records, are examples of records to which access has been limited by statute.