What is a FOIL request?

1. Why would you want to file a FOIL request?

If you want to know more about your government at all levels, especially if you have any questions or concerns regarding how it operates and how decisions are being made.

2. Who can file a FOIL request?

Anyone. Also, you are not required to identify yourself, provide a reason for the request, or state your intentions.

3. What can you FOIL?

Any physical government records. According to the law, that includes “all information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with or for an agency.” Eligible agencies include “any New York State or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function.” All their records are potentially subject to disclosure, unless the documents fall under a nine-part exemption criteria. “Most of the exceptions are based upon common sense and the potential for harm that would arise by means of disclosure,” the New York state Committee on Open Government’s website reads.

4. How do you file a FOIL request?

A typed or hand-written request addressing an agency’s “access records officer” is enough. However, email request are now acceptable if an agency has the records stored electronically. Most local governments in Chenango County provide forms. The clearer you make the request the better, but a “reasonable” description is all that is required. If a request is vague, clarification may be necessary before an agency can move forward with any research on the subject. Prior to filing, the Committee on Open Government suggests making sure you direct your request to the correct agency.

5. What happens after you file a FOIL request?

An agency has five business days to provide the records fully or partially, deny their disclosure, or formally state in writing the need for a reasonable extension, which can’t exceed 20 business days. All denials can be appealed, and if a response is not given on-time, it is considered a denial. If the information you’ve asked for – like budgets, expenditures, salaries, meeting minutes – is readily available, it should be produced upon request. A person seeking copies of records – as opposed to just viewing them – may be charged no more than $.25 per copy.

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