Appellate Division Upholds Confidentiality of Employee Outside Activity Records

It’s clear that outside activity records of public employees are exempt under OPRA. In an unpublished opinion issued today, the Appellate Division emphasized that these records also are typically not accessible under the common law. New York Public Radio v. Gov. Office.

The requestor in this case sought outside activity notifications submitted to the Governor’s Office’s ethics liaison officer. The trial judge ruled that these are exempt under OPRA because they are personnel records, but ordered disclosure under the common law. The Appellate Division disagreed. It held that the significant privacy interest of employees in their outside activities¬† outweighs the limited public interest in disclosure of this information.

The court also noted the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of ethics communications, to ensure that public employees will not be deterred from making such inquiries.

The Appellate Division also dealt with a separate OPRA request that presented the issue of whether the deliberative process privilege applied to a “Town Priority List” used by the Governor’s Office. The appellate court again reversed the trial court’s disclosure order. It ruled that this list was covered by the deliberative process privilege, in that it was a key component of the Governor’s Office’s decisionmaking process regarding allocation of resources.

 

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