Q: If a private institution such as university or college receives public and private funding for research, can a member of the public get access to records that pertain only to publicly funded research?
A: Generally speaking, private universities are not subject to the PRA. The PRA applies to the public records of state or local agencies. Under certain circumstances outlined in section 54952(c) of the Brown Act (incorporated into the PRA by section 6252 of the PRA), entities that are legislative bodies of a local agency may be subject to the PRA. Section 54952(c) defines “legislative body” as:”(c) (1) A board, commission, committee, or other multimember body that governs a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity that either:(A) Is created by the elected legislative body in order to exercise authority that may lawfully be delegated by the elected governing body to a private corporation, limited liability company, or other entity.(B) Receives funds from a local agency and the membership of whose governing body includes a member of the legislative body of the local agency appointed to that governing body as a full voting member by the legislative body of the local agency.”The entity would not be subject to the Public Records Act where the legislative body appoints someone other than one of its own members to the governing body of such entity. The mere receipt of public funds by a private non-profit corporation or other entity does not subject it to the requirements of the Act.