IV. How to gain access to public records
1. Records must be available for inspection during the regular office hours of the agency.1
2. Procedures. Agencies may adopt procedures to be followed, but such procedures can’t limit hours during which records are available. Some agencies are required to adopt written guidelines for accessibility of records, and to make those guidelines available free on written request.2
1. You are entitled to copies of public records.1
2. Procedures: You are not required by law to make a request is writing, but put your request in writing anyway. It gives you a record of what was requested, and establishes the date that starts time for a response running. The agency must respond to a request for public records within 10 days. The time for responding can be extended by the agency for an additional 14 days.3 You are entitled to an exact copy unless it is impracticable to provide one.4
- The agency may charge a fee: “covering direct costs of duplication” (or a statutory fee).5
- Direct cost” does not include search and retrieval time.6
- “Direct cost” does include maintenance costs and the salary of the clerk for time spent copying (essentially, what a copy shop would charge—usually $.10-.25 per page, except for unusual copies).
- Note: Counties may be allowed, by statute, to charge fees that exceed the “direct costs of duplication,” so long as the fees do not exceed the amount reasonably necessary to recover the cost of providing the copy.7
You are entitled to copies of documents in electronic form, although public agencies may resist disclosure if the records are subject to manipulation in their original electronic form.8 If such an issue is raised, see if the agency can readily convert the electronic document into a static form (e.g., converting a Word file into an Adobe .pdf file). The fees that may be charged for obtaining an electronic copy vary, but are generally limited to the direct cost of providing a copy in an electronic format.9
C. Materials containing both exempt and non-exempt information.
1. You are entitled to non-exempt portions of a record if reasonably segregable.10
2. Always ask to have any reasonably segregable portion provide
1. Government Code section 6253.1 obligates public agencies to assist the public to make focused and effective requests that reasonably describe identifiable records.
2. Public agencies are required, to the extent reasonable, to do all of the following
- Assist the public in identifying records and information responsive to the request or purpose of the request
- Describe the information technology and physical location in which the records exist;
- Provide suggestions for overcoming any practical basis for denying access to the records or information sought.
3. Always include in your written PRA requests a request for assistance pursuant to Government Code section 6253.1.
4. In general, ask the agency to identify the records or information responsive to your request, and to describe their location.
(1) 15. Gov’t Code § 6253(a).
(2) 16. Gov’t Code § 6253.4.
(3) 17. Gov’t Code § 6253(b).
(4) 18. Gov’t Code § 6253(c).
(5) 19. Gov’t Code § 6253(b).
(6) 20. Gov’t Code § 6253(b).
(7) 21. North County Parents Organization v. Department of Education, 23 Cal. App. 4th 144, 146 (1994).
(8) 22. 85 Ops. Cal. Atty. Gen. 225 (2002).
(9) 23. Gov’t Code § 6253.9(f).
(10) 24. Gov’t Code § 6253.5(a)(2). But see Gov’t Code § 6253.9(b).
(11) 25. Gov’t Code § 6253