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1. Who receives a request?


  • Alabama

    Alabama's Public Records Law is silent as to the procedure for obtaining public records. Typically, the request is made initially in person or by telephone to the office that holds the records. If a more formal, written request is necessary, that request is typically made to the custodian of the records, the governmental entity or officer that holds the records, or (if the request has reached the "lawyering" stage) to the attorney for the governmental entity or officer that holds the records.

    The statute that immediately follows the Public Records Law in the Alabama Code requires that "[e]very public officer having the custody of a public writing which a citizen has a right to inspect is bound to give him, on demand, a certified copy of it, on payment of the legal fees therefor." Ala. Code § 36-12-41. The Code also requires public officers and servants to make and keep these records at their office, as follows:

    All public officers and servants shall correctly make and accurately keep in and for their respective offices and places of business all such books or sets of books, documents, files, papers, letters and copies of letters as at all times shall afford full and detailed information in reference to the activities or business required to be done or carried on by such officer or servant and from which the actual status and condition of such activities and business can be ascertained without extraneous information, and all of the books, documents, files, papers, letters, and copies of letters so made and kept shall be carefully protected and safely preserved and guarded from mutilation, loss or destruction.

    Ala. Code § 36-12-2 (quoted, adopted, and applied in Stone v. Consol. Publ’g Co., 404 So. 2d 678 (1981), as an element of the definition of "public writing" for purposes of the Public Records Law). See also 223 Op. Att'y Gen. Ala. 25 (May 22, 1991) ("Public records must be kept in the office where created or in a depository approved by the state or local records commission.").

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  • Alaska

    The Public Records Act is not specific about where requests must be made, other than it directs a public officer "having the custody of public records" to give copies upon request, and also indicates that public records of all public agencies are available for inspection "during regular office hours." Regulations adopted by the state to govern records requests made of state agencies provide that requests for records of a state agency may be filed at the nearest office of the appropriate agency. 2 AAC 96.305. Addresses of state agencies' offices are listed in the semiannual Directory of State Officials compiled by the Legislative Affairs Agency, and are generally available online. If the request is received by an office of the public agency that does not maintain the requested records, the receiving office shall promptly forward the request to the office responsible for maintaining those records. 2 AAC 96.320.

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  • Arizona

    Requests to inspect public records should be directed to the public “officer” who maintains custody of the documents.  While some agencies may have freedom of information officers assigned to disclosure requests, it is advisable also to direct such requests to the “person elected or appointed to hold any elective or appointive office of any public body and any chief administrative officer, head, director, superintendent or chairman of any public body.”  A.R.S. § 39-121.01(A)(1).

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  • Arkansas

    The request should be directed to the “custodian” of the records. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(a)(2)(A). The term “custodian” is defined as “the person having administrative control of that record,” “except as otherwise provided by law.” Id. § 25-19-103(1)(A) (added by Act 999 of 2015). “Custodian” does not include “a person who holds public records solely for the purposes of storage, safekeeping, or data processing for others.” Id. § 25-19-103(1)(B) (added by Act 1653 of 2001). Under this definition, an agency’s chief administrator should be considered the custodian, since he or she has ultimate control over its records, unless someone else is otherwise provided by law as the custodian. Some agencies have adopted regulations implementing the FOIA, though they are not required to do so. Any such rules should be consulted for guidance as to where particular records are maintained and to whom a FOIA request should be made. In some cases, that information is available online. E.g., Department of Environmental Quality,

    If the person to whom the request is directed is not the custodian of the records, he or she “shall so notify the requester and identify the custodian, if known to or readily ascertainable by” the person who receives the request. Ark. Code Ann. § 25-19-105(a)(3) (added by Act 1653 of 2001).

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  • California

    The request should be directed to the public official or employee who has custody of the records. The request need not be to the head of an agency or to a supervisor.

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  • Colorado

    Requests should be made to any custodian or the "official custodian" of the record. Anyone who has possession, custody or control of a public record is a "custodian."

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  • Connecticut

    The request should be addressed to the public agency in question, and it is the public agency's responsibility to respond to the request.

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  • Delaware

    This depends on the agency, but generally FOIA responsibilities are not assigned to specific offices. A "public body," however, must actually receive a FOIA request in order to trigger any legal obligation to make requested records available. Del. Op. Att'y Gen., No. 04-ib04 (Feb. 5, 2004).

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  • District of Columbia

    The D.C. Act requires a "public body" to act on a FOIA request reasonably describing any public record. FOIA requests under the D.C. Act should be directed to the Freedom of Information Officer of the public body or agency that maintains the requested records or, if there is no FOIA Officer, to the head of the public body or agency that maintains the requested records.

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  • Georgia

    Requests for public records under the Act should be made to the records’ custodian. An agency may publicly and prominently (via its website and otherwise) designate one or more open records officers for the agency and require that all written requests for records be made to such officer, provided that the absence or unavailability of such officer shall not be permitted to delay the agency’s response. O.C.G.A. §§ 50-18-71(b)(1)(B) & (b)(2).

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  • Hawaii

    Requests should be directed to the agency possessing the desired records.

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  • Idaho

    Often, the individual seeking access to public records will already know the specific record or document sought. Idaho’s Public Records Act does not require local agencies to specifically detail the types of records maintained by the agencies. However, the act requires every state agency to adopt guidelines that identify the general subject matter of all public records kept or maintained by the agency and to further identify the custodian and physical location of such documents. Idaho Code § 74-119. Thus, if a person is unsure what records might exist in the specific area of interest, a threshold step could be to request a copy of the agency record guidelines.

    Each state agency generally maintains records dealing with matter indigenous to its mission. Examples would include:

    • Records of the state Board of Corrections concerning number of inmates in prison facilities, number of escapes, etc.
    • Records of regulatory agencies such as an air pollution control agency (e.g., DEQ) that keeps track of pollution control program compliance, etc.
    • Records of the State Agriculture Department regarding crop production reports, pesticide testing, bee kills, etc.
    • Reports of the State Department of Health and Welfare regarding conditions in the state hospitals, conditions in state-funded shelter homes and totals of infectious diseases, etc.
    • Records of complaints made to the State Insurance Commission and action taken on such complaints.

    The best reference work for reviewing the organization of state government and the numerous state boards and commissions is the Idaho Blue Book.  See This book, compiled and published by the office of the Secretary of State, has in the past been updated every two years. There are no comparable publications that list governmental organizations in the various Idaho municipalities and counties, but such information can be obtained from county or city clerk offices.

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  • Illinois

    A request for public records should be addressed to the relevant public body’s FOIA Officer—by way of personal delivery, mail, telefax, or other written means available to the public body. 5 ILCS 140/3(c).  A public body may not require that a request be submitted on a standard form or require the requester to specify the purpose for a request, except to determine whether the records are requested for a commercial purpose or whether to grant a request for a fee waiver. 5 ILCS 140/3(c).

    5 ILCS 140/4 requires each public body to prominently display at each of its administrative or regional offices, to make available for inspection and copying, and to send through the mail if requested, each of the following:

    (a) A brief description of itself, which will include, but not be limited to, a short summary of its purpose, a block diagram giving its functional subdivisions, the total amount of its operating budget, the number and location of all of its separate offices, the approximate number of full and part-time employees, and the identification and membership of any board, commission, committee, or council which operates in an advisory capacity relative to the operation of the public body, or which exercises control over its policies or procedures, or to which the public body is required to report and be answerable for its operations; and

    (b) A brief description of the methods whereby the public may request information and public records, a directory designating the Freedom of Information officer or officers, the address where requests for public records should be directed, and any fees allowable under Section 6 of this Act.

    A public body that maintains a website shall also post this information on its website.  See 5 ILCS 140/4.

    5 ILCS 140/3(g) states that requests calling for all records falling within a category shall be complied with unless compliance with the request would be unduly burdensome for the complying public body and there is no way to narrow the request and the burden on the public body outweighs the public interest in the information. Before invoking this exemption, the public body must extend to the person making the request an opportunity to confer with it in an attempt to reduce the request to manageable proportions. If anybody responds to a categorical request by stating that compliance would unduly burden its operation and the conditions described above are met, it shall do so in writing, specifying the reasons why it would be unduly burdensome and the extent to which compliance will so burden the operations of the public body. Such a response shall be treated as a denial of the request for information.

    Repeated requests from the same person for the same records that are unchanged or identical to records previously provided or properly denied under this Act shall be deemed unduly burdensome under this provision. See 5 ILCS 140/3(g)

    The Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, has held that the mere possession of records by a public body is not determinative of an agency's ability to release documents under the Act if another governmental entity has a substantial interest in asserting an exemption. See Twin-Cities Broad. Corp. v. Reynard, 277 Ill. App. 3d 777, 661 N.E.2d 401, 214 Ill. Dec. 547 (4th Dist. 1996). Where one public body holds records in which another public body has a substantial interest in asserting an exemption and the holder denies that the records are exempt from disclosure or decides not to assert an otherwise applicable exemption and knows the other public body would assert the exemption, the holder of the records must consult with the other public body, which may assert an exemption on its own behalf. See Twin-Cities (holding that a state's attorney possessing the minutes and transcript of a university board of regents closed meeting who was willing to disclose them to a FOIA requester could not unilaterally do so when he knew board would have asserted an exemption, and holding that board was entitled to assert FOIA exemption on its own behalf).

    The statute contains a separate provision for public records prepared or received after the effective date of the act (July 1, 1984). As to these records, each public body must maintain and make available for inspection and copying a reasonably current list of all the types or categories of records under its control. The list must be reasonably detailed in order to aid persons in obtaining access to public records. Each public body must furnish upon request a description of the manner in which public records stored by means of electronic data processing may be obtained in a form comprehensible to persons lacking knowledge of computer language or printout format. See 5 ILCS 140/5.

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  • Indiana

    Any employee of a public agency may receive the request. FOI responsibilities are not assigned to specific offices.

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  • Iowa

    The lawful custodian or authorized deputy. Iowa Code § 22.3.
    "Each government body shall delegate to particular officials or employees of that government body the responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter and shall publicly announce the particular officials or employees to whom responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter has been delegated. ‘Lawful custodian’ does not mean an automated data processing unit of a public body if the data processing unit holds the records solely as the agent of another public body, nor does it mean a unit which holds the records of other public bodies solely for storage." Iowa Code § 22.1(2).

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  • Kansas

    The custodian receives requests to inspect records. If the person who receives the request is not the custodian of the public record requested, such person shall notify the requester and shall furnish the name and location of the custodian, if known or readily ascertainable. K.S.A. 45-218(c).

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  • Kentucky

    A request for a public record should be directed to the "official custodian" of the records, which is the "chief administrative officer or any other officer or employee of a public agency who is responsible for the maintenance, care and keeping of public records." Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.870(5).

    If the person to whom the request is sent is not the official custodian, that person is required to notify the requester and provide the official custodian's name and address. Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.872(4).

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  • Louisiana

    The "custodian" of public records is "the public official or head of any public body having custody or control of a public record, or a representative specifically authorized by him to respond to requests to inspect any such public records." La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 44:1(A)(3) (emphasis added). A person is the "custodian" of a public record if he or she has "control" over the records at issue; physical possession is not prerequisite. Times-Picayune Publishing Corp. v. Johnson, 645 So. 2d 1174 (La. App. 4th Cir. 1994), writ denied 651 So. 2d 260 (La. 1995) (Louisiana legislators who had "control" of scholarship nomination firms in the physical custody of private university are custodians of the records for purpose of Public Records Act). See also Burkett v. UDS Management Corp., 741 So. 2d 838 (La. App. 3rd Cir.), writ denied, 748 So. 2d 1150 (La. 1999) (water district public records possessed by private management company must be disclosed).

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  • Maine

    Each agency, county, municipality, school administrative unit and regional or other political subdivision must designate an existing employee as its public access officer. 1 M.R.S. § 413.  However, a request may be made to any public officer or official, preferably the person with custody or control over the records in question.  Id. § 413(2).  State Freedom of Access Act contacts can be found here:

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  • Maryland

    Generally, an applicant must make a written application to the "custodian." § 4-202. "Custodian" is defined in § 4-101(d) to mean the official custodian or any other authorized individual who has physical custody and control of a public record. "Official custodian" is defined in § 4-101(f) to mean "an officer or employee of the State or of a political subdivision who, is responsible for keeping the record, whether or not the officer or employee has physical custody and control of a public record." Thus, responsibilities under the PIA are distributed to each custodian of every unit or instrumentality of the state government or of a political subdivision who has responsibility for keeping public records.

    Concluding that there could be no doubt that the procedures of the PIA are in most respects altogether incompatible with the efficient conduct of an audit, the Attorney General has stated that the procedural requirements of the PIA do not apply to the Legislative Auditor's conduct of an audit. See 76 Op. Att'y Gen. 287 (1991).

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  • Massachusetts

    Request must be made to custodian of the government entity that has the record desired. Custodian means "the governmental officer or employee who in the normal course of his or her duties has access to or control of public records." 950 CMR 32.03. “Records custodians should use their superior knowledge” both “to assist the requester in obtaining the desired information” and “to ensure that the request is delivered to the appropriate party,” and therefore custodians should forward requests (or portions of requests) to the appropriate parties for a response. Guide to the Mass. Pub. Recs. Law (Sec’y of State, rev. March 2009), at 5, 6. A custodian may not refer a requester to a service bureau within the agency (such as a data processing division) or to a private entity that has contracted with the government to maintain a database. SPR Bulletin 3-96, “Application of the Public Records Law to Electronic Records Access” (Jun3 6, 1996).

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  • Michigan

    Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.236 generally assigns responsibility for responding to FOIA requests to the public body's FOIA coordinator:

    1. For a public body which is a city, village, township, county, or state department, or under the control thereof, an individual shall be designated as the public body's FOIA coordinator, who shall be responsible for accepting and processing requests for public records and for approving a denial under the FOIA. In a county not having an executive form of government, the chairperson of the county board of commissioners shall be considered the FOIA coordinator for purposes of this subsection. A FOIA coordinator may designate another individual to act on his or her behalf.
    2. For all other public bodies, the chief administrative officer of the respective public body, or an individual designated in writing by that chief administrative officer, shall be responsible for approving a denial. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.236.
    3. If another employee receives a request for a public record, the employees must promptly forward the request to the FOIA coordinator. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.233.

    Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.241, which provides for disclosure of records developed or submitted pursuant to administrative adjudications, does not require a specific request. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan v. Insurance Bureau Hearing Officer, 104 Mich. App. 113, 304 N.W.2d 499, 504 (1981). The items which state agencies must make available under Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.241 include:

    1. Final orders or decisions in contested cases and the records on which they were made.
    2. Promulgated rules.
    3. Other written statements that implement or interpret laws, rules, or policy, including but not limited to guidelines, manuals, and forms with instructions, adopted or used by the agency in the discharge of its functions. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.241(1).
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  • Montana

    The custodian of the document.

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  • Nebraska

    Requests should be made to persons with custody of the desired record(s). If the custodian is unknown, the request should be directed to the director of the agency or head of public body.

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  • Nevada

    The public records official of the agency. Each public agency in Nevada must adopt a policy with respect to public records requests and this should include an identification of the public records official.

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute is intended, and has been implemented, to minimize the need for formal procedures. Requests for records should be in writing and directed to an official of the public agency or public body from which the records are sought. RSA 91-A:4, IV; RSA 91-A:7.

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  • New Jersey

    N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(g) provides that the request shall be conveyed to the custodian. N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1 defines a custodian, in the case of a municipality to be the municipal clerk and in the case of other agencies to be the person officially designated by the agency's governing body.

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  • New Mexico

    Each public body must designate at least one custodian of public records, and requests are sent to the custodian.  NMSA 1978 § 14-2-8(A).

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  • North Carolina

    Requests for public records may be made to the custodian of the public record. One trial court ruled that a local government cannot construct barriers to public records access by requiring requests to be filtered through a county manager or some other designated public official. Dawes v. Buncombe County Board of Comm’rs, 99 CVS 03497 (September 1, 1999).

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  • North Dakota

    Any official of any agency can be asked for public records. It is worth noting many older records are maintained by the records management program of the state information technology department. See N.D.C.C. Ch. 54-46. Inquiries for records that are no longer available through the relevant agency should be directed to this office. The records management program can be reached at (701) 328-3585. The state records administrator and his or her agents and employees are subject to the same restrictions and penalties regarding the dissemination of information as are the personnel of the agency involved. N.D.C.C. 54-46-14.

    Except as otherwise provided by law, all records of a public entity are public records, open and accessible for inspection during reasonable office hours. “Reasonable office hours” includes all regular office hours of a public entity. If a public entity does not have regular office hours, the name and telephone number of a contact person authorized to provide access to the public entity’s records must be posted on the door of the office of the public entity, if any. Otherwise, the information regarding the contact person must be filed with the appropriate designee. N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18(1).

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  • Ohio

    Ohio law does not require that requesters direct their requests to any particular public agency, department, or employee. It is enough that the request go to the public office or official with custody of the records.

    A request for court records is properly submitted to either the clerk or presiding judge since either one is a "person responsible" for the records. State ex rel. Highlander v. Rudduck, 103 Ohio St. 3d 370, 816 N.E.2d 213 (2004).

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  • Oklahoma

    The public body must designate the person to receive the request. 51 O.S. §§ 24A.5.6., 24A.6.

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  • Oregon

    All requests are first directed to the actual custodian of the records in question. Oregon’s review procedures then vary slightly depending upon whether the records in question are held:

    a) by a state public body,

    b) by a county, city or local public body, or

    c) by an elected official.

    Appeal from the denial of disclosure of records held by a state public body goes first to the Attorney General. ORS 192.411(formerly ORS 192.450). An appeal concerning county, city or local records goes first to the district attorney for the county in which the records are located. ORS 192.415 (formerly ORS.192.460). Appeals concerning records held by any elected official go directly to circuit court. ORS 192.427 (formerly ORS 192.480).

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  • Rhode Island

    The custodian of records for the public body. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(a).

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  • South Carolina

    The act does not specify who is to receive the request. As a matter of practice, go to the person who has the documents you seek, unless the agency has a designee to receive requests.

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  • South Dakota

    Informal request is directed to the “custodian of the record.” SDCL §1-27-35. The formal written request is made to the “public record officer of the public entity involved.” SDCL §1-27-37.

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  • Tennessee

    Requests for the right of personal inspection should be addressed to the official and/or designee of the official in charge of the records.  If the request is not submitted to the office that is the records custodian, in a latter lawsuit to obtain the records, a court will not have jurisdiction to hear the case State v. Odom, 2007 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 305 (Tenn. Crim. App. April 13, 2007).

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  • Texas

    The written request should be made to the officer for public information, see Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.301(c), defined as the “chief administrative officer of a governmental body.” Id. at § 552.201(a). Also, each elected county officer is the officer for public information created or received by that county officer’s office. Id. at (b).

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  • Utah

    A government entity may make rules designating where and to whom a record request shall be directed. See Utah Code § 63G-2-204(2)(d).

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  • Vermont

    The public records law in Vermont is procedurally very simple. The person seeking a record or document has only to make a “request” for it to “the custodian of a public record,” who “shall promptly produce the record for inspection.” 1 V.S.A. § 318 (a). Every office and agency must comply with its own requests; there are no centralized handling procedures.

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  • Virginia

    The request is directed to the agency that is the custodian of the records that are being sought. Although it is not required, best practice is to identify and submit a request to the person designated by the custodian as its FOIA officer pursuant to Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3704.2.

    The Governor is not the custodian of records for each and every public body in the Commonwealth. Davis v. Allen, 44 Va. Cir. 237 (Richmond Cir. Ct. 1997).

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  • Washington

    The Public Records Act requires each agency to publish the procedures by which requests for public records are to be made. RCW 42.56.040. Many agencies provide information on their websites regarding how to make records requests or how to contact the applicable public records officers. A requesting party is not required to follow the agency procedure, but usually it is advisable to do so.

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  • West Virginia

    The Freedom of Information Act requires that requests for access to records be made to the person in charge of the government body:

    “A request to inspect or copy any public record of a public body shall be made directly to the custodian of such public record.”

    W. Va. Code § 29B-1-3(b). “Custodian” means the elected or appointed official charged with administering a public body. W. Va. Code § 29B-1-2(1).

    In  Hurlbert v. Matkovich, 233 W. Va. 583, 760 S.E.2d 152 (2014), the West Virginia Supreme Court held that its "jurisprudence . . . clearly demonstrates a liberal construction of “custodian” and not only countenances disclosures if the requested records are, at a minimum, in possession of the public entity, but has been extended to require disclosure of documents over which the public body does not possess, but merely exercises control. See Syl. Pt. 3, Daily Gazette Co., Inc. v. Withrow, 177 W. Va. 110, 350 S.E.2d 738 (1986), superseded by statute on other grounds, Daily Gazette Co., Inc. v. W. Va. Dev. Office, 206 W. Va. 51, 521 S.E.2d 543 (1999) (holding that “lack of possession” not determinative where the writing is “subject to the control of the public body” (emphasis added)); see also Kissinger v. Reporters Comm., 445 U.S. 136, 151, 100 S.Ct. 960, 63 L.Ed.2d 267 (1980) (“[A]gency possession or control is prerequisite to triggering any duties under the FOIA.” (emphasis added)). But see Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation v. Regional Jail and Correctional Authority, 200 W. Va. 621, 490 S.E.2d 708 (1997) (Where public body has unexercised right to obtain copy of writing relating to the conduct of the public's business which was prepared and retained by private party, that fact alone does not mean the writing is "public record" under FOIA).

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  • Wisconsin

    Each authority is required to designate one or more custodians and to post prominently at its offices a notice containing a description of its organization and the times and places at which, the legal custodian from whom, and the methods whereby, the public may obtain information and access to records. Wis. Stat. § 19.34(1).

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  • Wyoming

    The custodian of any public record. Wyo. Stat. § § 16-4-202, 203(1977).

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