This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.
TOWN BOARD -- Powers and Duties (authority to publish names, office addresses and phone numbers of town officials)
TOWN LAW, §§30, 116(13): A town board may determine to place an advertisement in a newspaper for the purpose of informing the public of the name, office, address, office phone number, and office hours of the town clerk.
You have asked whether it is a proper town expense to publish an advertisement in a local newspaper stating the name, phone number, address and office hours of the town clerk.
Initially, we note that there is no express statutory authority for a town clerk to place or cause to be placed an advertisement in a newspaper stating the clerk's name, office address, office hours and phone number (see Town Law, §30, describing powers and duties of a town clerk; cf. Real Property Tax Law, §920, providing that, upon receipt of the tax roll and warrant, the tax collecting officer of each city and town shall cause a notice to be published, among other things, specifying one or more convenient places where taxes will be received). However, this Office has stated that, as a necessary incident to a town's power to incur expenses for the publication and distribution of reports relative to fiscal affairs, official acts, programs and meetings of the town (Town Law, §116) and its duty to maintain a record of the names, public office addresses, titles and salaries of its officers and employees (Public Officers Law, §87), a town board could determine to publish and distribute a pamphlet listing the names, office addresses and office telephone numbers of its officials (1983 Opn St Comp No. 83-204, p 263). Similarly, it is our opinion that a town board could determine to place an advertisement in a newspaper for the purpose of informing the public of the names, office addresses and office phone numbers of town officials.
We caution, however, that public moneys may not be expended for political or partisan purposes (see Phillips v Maurer, 67 NY2d 672, 499 NYS2d 675; Stern v Kramarsky, 84 Misc 2d 447, 375 NYS2d 235; 1980 Opns St Comp No. 80-411, p 117, 1980 Opns St Comp No. 80-762, p 209). Accordingly, any such advertisement must be intended to objectively inform or educate the public and not to influence public opinion. Thus, if a town determines to publish the names and addresses of only selected officials, its determination in this regard must be premised on the public's need to know and not on partisanship.
June 29, 1988
Carol A. Franey, Town Clerk
Town of Evans