Public Records Request (Superintendents)
Public Records Request by the Bakersfield Californian–
August 23, 2002
Many, if not all, school districts in Kern County have received a records request under the California Public Records Act (Government Code sections 6250, et seq.) from the Bakersfield Californian (“Californian“). A copy of the form request sent out by the Californian which you may or may not have received is, for your information only, attached to this memorandum.
If you have not received a copy of the foregoing form records request from the Californian, you need not respond to it.
On the other hand, if you received the Californian’s request, you have 10 calendar days from the date of receipt of the request to “determine” if you will or will not comply with the request. The law does not require that you dispatch or otherwise supply the requested public records within the 10 day period, only that you make a determination concerning compliance and “promptly notify” the person making the request, in this case Steven Mayer of the Californian, of your decision and the reasons therefor. The law also requires, if you send a “determination” letter to the requester that you also provide the “estimated date and time when the records will be made available.” You will have a “reasonable” period of time to comply with the request. For your information, also enclosed is a copy of Government Code section 6253 which addresses the foregoing issues.
Obviously, if you can respond to the request within the 10 day period (i.e., by sending copies of the public records to Mr. Mayer), you need not be concerned with sending a “determination” letter. Simply send copies of the public records to the requester.
Mr. Mayer has requested a copy of your most current employment contract. That document is a public record and you must comply with his request. He also requests any “accompanying materials” as needed pertaining to various benefits. For the purpose of explaining and/or clarifying the provisions of the contract, those accompanying materials may include, for example, copies of policies and/or administrative regulations related to such things as health and welfare benefits, travel stipends/expenses, life insurance, and other benefits. Since Mr. Mayer does not specify any time frames, it does not appear that he is requesting any supplementary documents/information reflecting actual amounts paid to you for any of the benefits listed in the request during any specific period of time. If he does, in fact, want that type of information, he may subsequently clarify his request and ask for it. However, I do not think he is asking for that type of information as a part of this request.
I also recommend, for reference purposes, that you keep a copy of every document you send to Mr. Mayer. In addition, keep your cover letter to Mr. Mayer short and to the point, simply making reference to his request and your response. Further, you can only charge for the actual duplication costs—what it costs you to run each copy excluding any research, compilation and operator expenses. Normally, this will probably be about five to ten cents per copy.
And lastly, please remember that this letter is protected by the attorney-client privilege. Please do not provide a copy of this letter to the Californian or any other third party.
And, if you have any questions whatsoever concerning this matter, please do not hesitate to call me.
§§ 6253. Time for inspection of public records; “Unusual circumstances”
(a) Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided. Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.
(b) Except with respect to public records exempt from disclosure by express provisions of law, each state or local agency, upon a request for a copy of records that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, shall make the records promptly available to any person upon payment of fees covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable. Upon request, an exact copy shall be provided unless impracticable to do so.
(c) Each agency, upon a request for a copy of records, shall, within 10 days from receipt of the request, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the agency and shall promptly notify the person making the request of the determination and the reasons therefor. In unusual circumstances, the time limit prescribed in this section may be extended by written notice by the head of the agency or his or her designee to the person making the request, setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than 14 days. When the agency dispatches the determination, and if the agency determines that the request seeks disclosable public records, the agency shall state the estimated date and time when the records will be made available. As used in this section, “unusual circumstances” means the following, but only to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:
(1) The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.
(2) The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request.
(3) The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.
(4) The need to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data.
(d) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records. The notification of denial of any request for records required by Section 6255 shall set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial.
(e) Except as otherwise prohibited by law, a state or local agency may adopt requirements for itself that allow for faster, more efficient, or greater access to records than prescribed by the minimum standards set forth in this chapter.