Giving conditions to public records requests

Giving conditions to public records requests

Q: I am a paid-call firefighter (Volunteer) at a Fire Protection District in the Bay Area. I am writing about and incident that happened to me.

I telephoned the district’s secretary and asked if I could see the last six months of minutes from the Board of Directors meetings.  She told me that they were locked up at the station and she would get back to me. I was then, given a letter from her and the Board of Directors that stated the following:

The board is aware of you request, and we retrieved our standard policy for Board meeting minutes access.

“The standard policy for access to the xxxxxxx Fire protection District Board of Director’s Meeting Minutes is as follows:

1.         The board requires a written request for access, with the name and address of the individual requesting access, and outlining the meeting dates of minutes desired for viewing.
2.         After receiving the written request, the individual will be contacted with an appointment for viewing access of the minutes requested.
3.         If copies are requested, there will be a charge per page for copies.

After reviewing the Pocket Guide to the California Public Records Act, I believe items 1 and 2 above are a clear violation of the Public Records Act.  Is this correct?

The department has 2 paid firefighter on duty from 8am – 5pm. would this be considered business hours?

Before I take the next step and write a written response back to the Board of Directors I just wanted to make sure I understand the language written in the Public Records Act.

A: The Public Records Act (PRA) does not require that your request for records be in writing.  However, if your request is in writing and the agency denies your request, Section 6255 the PRA requires that the agency provide you with a written response within 10 days, specifying the exemptions in the Public Records Act upon which the agency is relying for its denial of your request.

Also, the PRA does not require that the person making the request provide the agency with a name and address before access to public records is permitted.  As a practical matter, however, the agency may need to obtain some type of contact information in order to notify you once it has made a determination regarding your request.  The Act
provides the agency with a 10 day window to determine whether the records you seek (via an oral or written request) are in the agency’s possession and whether any exemption applies to exempt such records.

With respect to your question on office hours, Section 6253 of the PRA provides that “[p]ublic records are open to inspection at all time during the office hours of the state or local agency . . . .”   Thus, the office hours of the Fire Protection District (not the hours that the firefighters are on duty) would be considered the office hours of the agency.