New York State’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”), codified as the Public Officers Law, Article 6, §§84-90, allows members of the public the right to access government records, with certain Exceptions that are enumerated in §87(2) . The full text of FOIL and other information about the law is available at the New York State Committee on Open Government’s website.
What is a Record?
The Freedom of Information Law defines a record to be any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced by, with, or for an agency or the state legislature, in any physical form whatsoever. Under the law, all records are accessible, except records or portions of records that fall within one of nine categories of deniable records as stated in §87(2) of the Public Officer’s Law. Furthermore, the law provides access to existing records, and therefore, an agency need not create a record in response to a request.
How to Submit Request for Records
Please send requests in writing to the attention of the FOIL Officer located within the County department or division which maintains the information you are interested in obtaining. Please click here to view a directory of the County's departmental FOIL Officers. If you are requesting documents from a department that does not maintain those records, you will be notified, as such, in writing. Click here for a printable request form to submit.
NOTE, each independent office within Erie County Government (Board of Elections, Clerk, Comptroller, District Attorney, Legislature, and Sheriff), administers their own separate FOIL processes with both an internal FOIL Officer and FOIL Appeals Officer. Please contact those offices independently for details on how to submit a FOIL request or to appeal a FOIL decision.
Additionally, in accordance with the Public Officers Law § 89(3)(b), Erie County also affords you the opportunity to submit records access requests by email by completing the relevant portions of the electronic form below and directing it to the Erie County department or office that is a custodian of the requested records.
When making a request, you should reasonably describe the record in which you are interested. Public Officers Law §89(3). If possible, you should include dates, titles, file designations, or any other information that will help to find requested records.
Within five business days of the receipt of a written request for a record reasonably described, the agency must make the record available, deny access in writing giving the reasons for denial, or furnish a written acknowledgment of receipt of the request and a statement of the approximate date when the request will be granted or denied.
If neither a response to a request nor an acknowledgement of receipt of a request is given, a request may be considered to have been constructively denied. Therefore, the denial may be appealed in accordance with §89(4)(a) of the Public Officers Law.
How to Appeal a FOIL Decision
A denial of access to records must be in writing, stating the reason for the denial, and advising you of your right to appeal to the head or governing body of the agency or the person designated to hear appeals by the head or governing body of the agency.
You may appeal within thirty (30) days of the denial. Upon receipt of the appeal, the Appeals Officer will independently review the withheld records and the reasons provided for withholding them and make a final determination as to whether they were improperly withheld or must be released. The Appeals Officer has ten (10) business days to fully explain in writing the reasons for further denial of access or to provide access to the records.
Copies of all appeals and the determinations must be sent by the agency to the Committee on Open Government. Public Officers Law §89(4)(a). This requirement enables the Committee on Open Government to monitor compliance with the law and intercede when a denial of access may be improper. Furthermore, you may seek judicial review of a final agency denial by means of a proceeding initiated under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.
If you would like to appeal a decision, please contact the FOIL Appeals Officer, Timothy Callan, at (phone) 716-858-8515; (fax) 716-858-8838; (mail) 95 Franklin Street, 16th Floor, Buffalo, NY 14202; or click below to access an electronic form to submit your appeal.