Agencies Must Disclose Records Maintained In Electronic Format

Christine Soderlund submitted a FOIL Request for records related to the Town of Boylston’s spending from the checkbook registers of its highway and general accounts for fiscal year 2017. Boylston maintains its books and accounts using the QuickBooks platform and denied disclosure because it does not maintain the checkbook registers in PDF format. However, QuickBooks allows for the generation of reports in PDF format, which can then be easily exported to MS Excel forms, which Boylston also utilizes. When an agency has the ability to extract records maintained electronically with reasonable effort, it is required to extract and disclose said records. The town of Boylston has flagrantly disregarded this mandate in violation of FOIL.

The Government Justice Center has filed an Article 78 petition on behalf of Ms. Soderlund seeking a judgment finding that the town of Boylston’s nondisclosure was improper. If an agency has data or records readily available in electronic format, then FOIL requires said agencies to disclose the information so long as doing so only requires reasonable efforts, as is the case here. Agencies cannot avoid having to do a bare minimum of work to comply with the dictates of FOIL and the law is clear on this point. However, agencies continuously fail to provide records they have readily available, and GJC hopes to obtain a decision that Boylston’s conduct here runs counter to FOIL and is improper.