A&A: Using CPRA to learn rules governing Resort Improvement District #1

Q: A large part of my community is being harassed by a local agency known as a Resort Improvement District #1. By law they are supposed to maintain the power lines, water and sewers. They do a lot more than that though. They want to be the police here and field and investigate complaints.

They have humiliated me and others at board meetings as they discuss who their victims will be. They have called the sheriff, animal control and code enforcement on me. Every situation ends the same with me getting a compliment and being told I did nothing wrong from law enforcement. What I would like to do is file a FOIA request to find out what their policy is as far as taking and investigating complaints, who is in charge of the operation and how much time and money is spent on this. I would also like to know their vehicle policy and how much money is spent on gas per year. We residents are fed up and would like them to be held accountable.

A: You are correct that Resort Improvement District No. 1 is a governmental agency subject to the California Public Records Act (the state law equivalent to the federal FOIA). RID1 was established in 1965 pursuant to Pub. Res. Code sections 13000-13233.

The provisions of the Public Records Act are found at Govt Code sections 6250 et seq. You can also find general information about the law and its requirements on the First Amendment Coalition’s website (https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/public-records-2/)

As a general matter you need only request the specific records you seek from the agency. Your request need not be in writing, although written requests are often easier to keep track of, and a written record of all communications with the agency can be helpful if a conflict arises.

Please note that the law only requires the agency to produce records. it does not require the agency to answer questions. Thus your request should be phrased as “all records that reflect the RID’s vehicle policy” rather than a question such as “how much money does the agency spend on gas?”

Note also that as a general matter, the Public Records Act does not require an agency to create any record that does not already exist or compile information from numerous records. However, that general rule is subject to a few exceptions. Potentially applicable in your case is that upon request an agency is required to compile and extract information maintained in an electronic database. See Govt. Code section 6253.9. Note, however, that if computer programming is required for the compilation or extraction of data, the costs of programming can be passed on to the requester.

At the following link You can find a sample public records request letter.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.