A&A: CPRA Request Denied Citing “Invesitgatory Files” Exemption

Q:  I made a CPRA for the Complaint report filed against my mother’s daycare. The allegations were completely false and I have a report from the Dept. of Social Services stating the allegations are false and she has been completely cleared.

The PRA Attorney for Dept of Social services has denied my request because of Gov Code Section 6254(F) and (C), he keeps citing “investigatory or security file.”

I have stated that the allegations have been deemed unfounded and this information per my CPRA request should be released.

I have found several cases – The California Supreme court in Uribe v. Howie state the law does not allow a public agency to shield record from public disclosure simply by placing it in a file labeled “investigatory.” Exemption for investigatory files applies when the prospect of enforcement proceedings becomes “concrete and definite.”

This seems most promising I saw in your quote in the paper there are more cases would you be kind enough to share these with me, as I did a search via the California Supreme Court website and brought up 10,000 cases.

A: Indeed, the exemption under the Public Records Act for investigatory records only exempts from disclosure “[r]ecords of complaints to, or investigations conducted by, or records of intelligence information or security procedures…or security files compiled by any other state or local police agency, or any investigatory or security files compiled by any other state or local agency for correctional, law enforcement, or licensing purposes.”  Gov. Code, § 6254(f).  It may be in your mother’s situation, this is a record compiled by “any other state or local agency for … licensing purposes.”

You might want to write to the agency to the Department of Social Services and ask that it state the facts upon which it is basing its refusal to give you the records.  In other words, is it a “state or local agency” that licenses daycares?  If it is not an agency that licenses daycares, then it may be it is improperly withholding these records from you.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner 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.  No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.