Public Information Request by Dave Thomas
“III. WHAT ARE PUBLIC RECORDS?
- Includes handwritings, photographs, films, sound recordings, maps, magnetic tape, computer disks-virtually any means of recording any form of communication.7
- Computer data is clearly within the definition of a public record.8
- Containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business.
- The requirement that a record relate to the conduct of the public’s business is broadly construed, and rarely contested.9
- According to the legislative history of the PRA:
This definition is intended to cover every conceivable kind of record that is involved in the governmental process. . . . Only purely personal information unrelated to “the conduct of the public’s business” could be considered exempt from this definition, i.e., the shopping list phoned from home, the letter to a public officer from a friend which is totally void of reference to governmental activities.10
- Includes the names of public employees,11 although it may not include home addresses and phone numbers of state employees.12 Note, however, that access to names of public officials and employees is increasingly disputed. Seeking access to names of pubic employees who are the subjects of investigations or controversies may be justified.13 However, as a practical matter, you will probably get more information sooner if you agree that names of such employees can be withheld.
- Note that the names and contract information for private citizens may also be exempt from disclosure, particularly those who submit information or
complaints to the government with an expectation of confidentiality. Agreeing to allow public agencies to withhold such information may also expedite a request.
C. Prepared, owned, used or retained by state or local agency.
The records do not necessarily have to be in the actual custody of the public agency, if they are prepared, owned, or used by the agency.
D. Regardless of physical form or characteristics.
Information retained in an electronic format must be made available in any electronic form in which the agency holds the information.14″