Audit Procedures, Disclosure of Which Could Impede Investigations, Are Exempt from Disclosure
The Third Department noted that documents reflecting audit procedures used by the Department of Education are exempt from a FOIL request if they would facilitate attempts to circumvent the law, even though the documents were not directly related to law enforcement proceedings:
“FOIL is based on a presumption of access to the records, and an agency . . . carries the burden of demonstrating that the exemption applies to the FOIL request” … . The Department here relied upon Public Officers Law § 87 (2) (e) in providing redacted records and, specifically, a provision that exempts records from disclosure that “are compiled for law enforcement purposes and which, if disclosed, would . . . interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings” (Public Officers Law § 87  [e] [i]). Respondents asserted that the redactions were necessary because disclosure of the unredacted documents would reveal auditing techniques that would enable the providers of preschool special education programs to conceal their financial misdeeds more effectively.
The Department was directed to prepare the audit guidelines in the wake of audits conducted by the Comptroller that “found a pattern of mismanagement, waste and even fraud by numerous private providers of preschool special education” … . Those audits resulted in criminal investigations and the referral of “numerous” certified public accountants to the Department for disciplinary proceedings, and there is no reason to doubt that audits conducted under the guidance of the Department are also aimed at uncovering financial malfeasance. As such, while the guidelines and related documents did not arise from a specific law enforcement investigation, they were nevertheless compiled with law enforcement purposes in mind, and are exempt from disclosure if their release would enable individuals to “frustrate pending or prospective investigations or to use that information to impede a prosecution” … . Matter of Madeiros v New York State Educ. Dept., 2015 NY Slip Op 08028, 3rd Dept 11-5-15