1. Who receives a request?
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.").
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.
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).
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, http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/poa/pi/.
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).
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. Many agencies have implemented on-line CPRA request portals through which CPRA requests may be made and related communications between the requester and agency transpire.
The request should be addressed to the public agency in question, and it is the public agency's responsibility to respond to the request.
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.
Section 119.07(1)(a) states that “[e]very person who has custody of a public record shall permit the record to be inspected . . . .” Thus, a request to inspect or copy public records should be made to the “custodian” of such records.
The custodian is defined to be “[t]he elected or appointed state, county, or municipal officer charged with the responsibility of maintaining the office having public records, or his designee . . . .” See Puls v. City of Port St. Lucie, 678 So. 2d 514 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996) (custodian designates mode of disclosure); Mintus v. City of W. Palm Beach, 711 So. 2d 1359 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998) (police officer who temporarily possessed a document for a hearing was not the custodian of the document); Tober v. Sanchez, 417 So. 2d 1053 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982) (director of county transit agency, as officer charged by law with the responsibility of maintaining the office, was the “custodian” of accident reports emanating from separate agency bus accidents); Inf. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. to Mr. Larry Haag (June 6, 1985).
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).
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 https://sos.idaho.gov/elect/BLUEBOOK.HTM. 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.
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 result in the following: (i) it would be unduly burdensome for the complying public body, (ii) there is no way to narrow the request, and (iii) 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 any public body 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. See Greer v. Board of Education of Chicago, 2021 IL App (1st) 200429, at ¶¶ 12-14 (undue burden is not grounds for exemption).
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.
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).
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). The custodian may “designate other persons as necessary to carry out the duties of the custodian under the provisions of the Kansas open records act.” Kan. Att’y Gen. Op. 90-89.
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).
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 forms 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).
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: http://www.maine.gov/foaa/contactlist/.
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).
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” (June 6, 1996).
Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.236 generally assigns responsibility for responding to FOIA requests to the public body's FOIA coordinator:
a. 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. See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 15.236(1).
b. 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. See id. § 15.236(2).
c. If another employee receives a request for a public record, the employee must promptly forward the request to the FOIA coordinator. Id. § 15.233(1).
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 & Blue Shield of Mich. v. Ins. 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:
“a. Final orders or decisions in contested cases and the records on which they were made.
b. Promulgated rules.
c. 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).
Not specified. The public body's written procedures adopted pursuant to § 25-61-5(1) should state requirements for cost, time, place and method of access which must be "reasonable." They usually identify the person or office to whom a request must be made.
Each public governmental body is to provide a reasonable written policy, open to public inspection, regarding the release of information on any meeting, record or vote. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.028.2. When in doubt about a particular body’s procedures, ask to review this written policy. Requests for access to public records should be directed to the custodian of those records. Each public governmental body is required by the Sunshine Law to appoint a custodian who is to be responsible for maintenance of that body’s records. Mo.Rev.Stat. § 610.023.l. The identity and location of a public governmental body’s custodian is to be made available upon request. Id.; Pennington v. Dobbs, 235 S.W.3d 77, 79 (Mo.Ct.App. 2007). Though one agency may also have access to the records a party seeks, only the “custodian of records for the agency whose records are sought has the responsibility for the dissemination or non-dissemination of those records.” State ex rel. Daly v. Info. Tech. Servs. Agency of City of St. Louis, 417 S.W.3d 804, 809 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013).
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.
“A request for access to a government record shall be in writing and hand-delivered, mailed, transmitted electronically, or otherwise conveyed to the appropriate custodian.” N.J.S.A. 47:1A-5(g). N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1 defines “custodian” to mean “in the case of a municipality, the municipal clerk and in the case of any other public agency, the officer officially designated by formal action of that agency's director or governing body, as the case may be.”
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).
The FOIL directs each agency to promulgate rules and regulations pertaining to the availability of records and the procedures to be followed to obtain access, including the times and places that records are available, the person from whom such records may be obtained, and the fees for copies of records. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 87(1)(b). See, e.g., Murphy v. State Educ. Dep’t, 148 A.D.2d 160, 543 N.Y.S.2d 70, (1st Dep’t 1989); Town of Northumberland v. Eastman, 129 Misc.2d 447, 493 N.Y.S.2d 93 (Sup. Ct. 1985).
The person within an agency from whom records may be obtained is generally designated the records access officer, and is responsible for coordinating the agency’s response to FOIL requests. See, e.g., Zaleski v. Hicksville Union Free Sch. Dist., N.Y.L.J., Dec. 27, 1978 (Sup. Ct., Nassau Cty., 1978); see also Willson v. Washburn (Sup. Ct., Oneida Cty. November 18, 1993) (excusing failure to direct request to record access officer where agency told requester to communicate exclusively with another person); Timmons v. Green, 57 A.D.3d 1393, 871 N.Y.S.2d 562 (4th Dep’t 2008) (although an agency may designate a records access officer, an agency is not thereby relieved of its burden of responding to FOIL requests).
Each agency must also maintain a reasonably detailed list, by subject matter, of all records in the possession of the agency, whether or not available under FOIL. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 87(3)(c). This does not, however, require the agency to prepare a detailed list or index of its final opinions. Wattenmaker v. N.Y.S. Employee’s Retirement Sys., 95 A.D.2d 910, 464 N.Y.S.2d 52 (3d Dep’t 1983), appeal denied, 60 N.Y.2d 555, 455 N.E.2d 487, 467 N.Y.S.2d 1030 (1983); D’Alessandro v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., 56 A.D.2d 762, 392 N.Y.S.2d 433 (lst Dep’t 1977). An agency may not deny records without first reviewing them and stating with particularity the reasons for denial. Cornell University v. City of New York Police Dep’t, 153 A.D.2d 515, 544 N.Y.S.2d 356 (1st Dep’t 1989), leave denied, 75 N.Y.2d 707 (1990); Burton v. Slade, 166 A.D.2d 352, 561 N.Y.S.2d 637 (1st Dep’t 1990).
The 2008 amendments to sections 87 and 89 require an agency to consider public access when contracting with outside vendors and when designing electronic information systems.
The amendment to section 87 prohibits an agency from entering into or renewing a contract for the creation or maintenance of records if a contract would impair public inspection or copying.
The amendment to section 89 requires “whenever practicable and reasonable” that an agency design its information systems in a manner that permits segregation and retrieval of publicly available data “in order to provide maximum public access.”
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).
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).
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).
All requests are first directed to the actual custodian of the records being sought. Oregon’s review procedures then vary slightly depending upon whether the records 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).
The Law states that “written request[s] must be addressed to the [ORO]” that agencies are required to designate under the Law. 65 Pa. Con. Stat. § 67.703. If such a request is directed to some other agency employee, such employee “shall be directed to forward requests for records to the [agency’s] open records officer.” Id. Every agency subject to the Law is required to post the contact information for its ORO on its website. Id. § 67.504(b).
The Law sets forth how the ORO’s are established and their responsibilities.
Agencies must designate an official or employee to act as the open-records officer. Id. § 67.502(a). For a legislative agency other than the Senate or House of Representatives, the Legislative Reference Bureau must designate an open-records officer. Id.
The functions of the ORO are prescribed in 65 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 67.502(b):
1. Receive requests submitted to the agency. Upon receiving a request, the officer must (a) note the date of receipt on the written request; (b) determine the day on which the 5-day period to respond expires and note that date on the written request; (c) maintain an electronic or paper copy of the request, including all documents submitted with the request; (d) maintain written requests for 10 days or, if an appeal is filed, until a final determination is issued or the appeal is deemed denied; and, for Commonwealth agencies only, (e) create a file for retention of the request, response, written communications.
2. Direct requests to other appropriate persons within the agency or in another agency.
3. Track the agency’s progress in responding to requests.
4. Issue interim and final responses under the act.
Id. §§ 67.502(a), (b)(1)-(2)(i)-(iv).
An agency may promulgate regulations and policies necessary for the agency to implement the Law. Id. § 67.504(a). The Office of Open Records may promulgate regulations relating to appeals involving a Commonwealth agency or local agency. Id.
The Law permits a written request to be submitted in a variety of ways – “in person, by mail, by email, by facsimile or, to the extent provided by agency rules, any other electronic means.” Id. § 67.703
The custodian of records for the public body. R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-3(a).
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.
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.
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).
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).
The public records law in Vermont is procedurally very simple. The person seeking a record or document only has 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.
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).
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.
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).
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).