Financial Records of Spouse of District Attorney Subject to Freedom Of Information Law

The records of government agencies and officers are subject to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) (Public Officers Law art 6).  But are there situations where the Freedom of Information Law can reach into the records of the family members of government officers?

A case from the Third Department – Matter of Humane Socy. of United States v Fanslau, 2008 NY Slip Op 0668, indicates yes – partially.

The case involved the District Attorney of Sullivan County.  The District Attorney of Sullivan County is required to submit financial disclosure statements which are maintained by the Sullivan County Board of Ethics.  When the County released the financial disclosure records of the District Attorney in response to a FOIL request, it redacted information relating to the DA’s family.

In finding that the redaction was error, the Third Department found that general information (not information about amounts or values) of the family member’s financial interests should have been disclosed pursuant to the FOIL request.

The Court stated:

Balancing the competing interests of public access and personal privacy (citation omitted), under the circumstances presented herein, disclosure of the general information regarding the income and investments of (the DA’s) family members outweighs any personal privacy interest. * * * Information pertaining to a family member’s financial interests is clearly relevant to the Board’s role of investigating ethical code violations in an effort to uncover conflicts of interest involving public officials. The financial interests at issue, absent the categories of amounts and values, constitute general information that the public has a right to uncover and the disclosure of such does not amount to an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.

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