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2. Availability of an ombudsman

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  • Alaska

    The state ombudsman, a legislative employee, may be a source of help for citizens denied access to public records by state agencies. AS 24.55.200. Similarly, a municipal ombudsman, such as the Municipality of Anchorage’s, 2 AMC 60.160 et seq., may be helpful for those dealing with the city of Anchorage and its employees and contractors.

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  • Arizona

    In Arizona, any citizen may complain to the Office of the Ombudsman-Citizens Aide regarding the actions of an agency.  A.R.S. §§ 41-1371 to -1378.  In response to a complaint, the Ombudsman-Citizens Aide has the power to investigate the administrative acts of agencies and make recommendations to the governor, the legislature, and/or the appropriate prosecutor.  A.R.S. §§ 41-1376 to -1378.  Certain governmental entities, including the governor, attorney general, state treasurer and secretary of state, are exempt from this law.  A.R.S. § 41-1372.

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  • Arkansas

    There is no FOIA ombudsman.

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  • California

    Local ordinances governing access to public meetings and public records (commonly referred to as sunshine ordinances) often designate a particular information officer or other employee to field complaints regarding CPRA and Brown Act violations. Aggrieved individuals should ascertain whether their municipality has a sunshine ordinance and, if so, whether the ordinance designates such an individual.

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  • Connecticut

    An ombudsman is assigned to each appeal to the FOIC to act as a liaison between the parties and to attempt to effect settlement prior to hearing.

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  • Delaware

    Not applicable.

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  • District of Columbia

    The D.C. Act contains no provision regarding the availability of an ombudsman.

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  • Georgia

    Although the Act does not specifically provide for an ombudsman, the Office of the Attorney General has established an Open Government Mediation Program “to help citizens with questions or concerns about local government’s decisions to close meetings to the public or governmental responses to Open Records requests.”  Further information, including a contact name and phone number, is available at: http://law.ga.gov/open-government-mediation-program.

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  • Hawaii

    The ombudsman, who is appointed by the legislature, has jurisdiction to investigate the administrative "acts of agencies." Haw. Rev. Stat. § 96-5; see generally id., ch. 96 (describing functions of the Office of Ombudsman).

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  • Idaho

    The Act does not provide for an ombudsman or similar role to assist in the enforcement of it provisions.  However, in 2014, the Governor signed Executive Order 2014-04 creating the position of Public Records Ombudsman with jurisdiction over executive branch agencies, committees, boards and commissions.  It specifically did not include jurisdiction over state and local agencies, which would require legislative action.  The move was seen as a step towards streamlining the often costly and expensive process involved in gaining access to public records.  Today, the ombudsman’s office is available to answer questions and informally mediate disputes about public records sought from the executive branch.

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  • Illinois

    See “Attorney General’s role” above.

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  • Indiana

    The office of the Indiana Public Access Counselor was created in 1999. Ind. Code § 5-14-4-6. The Public Access Counselor is appointed by the governor for a four-year term, and is responsible for conducting research, preparing educational materials, responding to informal inquiries made by the public and public agencies concerning the public access laws, and issuing advisory opinions to interpret the public access laws upon the request of person or a public agency. Ind. Code § 5-14-4-10. The Public Access Counselor’s advisory opinions are available online at http://www.in.gov/pac/2330.htm, and its informal opinions are available online at http://www.in.gov/pac/2329.htm.

    Public agencies must cooperate with the Public Access Counselor in any investigation or proceeding. Ind. Code § 5-14-5-5. However, seeking the opinion of the Public Access Counselor is separate from the enforcement process that occurs in the courts. Consulting the Public Access Counselor is not required, Ind. Code § 5-14-5-4, but is advisable because failing to do so precludes a prevailing plaintiff from collecting attorney fees if litigation becomes necessary, with a limited exception. Ind. Code § 5-14-3-9(i).

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  • Iowa

    The office of the Ombudsman has statutory authority to "[i]nvestigate, on complaint or on the ombudsman's own motion, any administrative action of any agency, without regard to the finality of the administrative action, except that the ombudsman shall not investigate the complaint of an employee of an agency in regard to that employee's employment relationship with the agency." Iowa Code § 2C.9(1).
    Under Chapter 2C, "'Agency' means all governmental entities, departments, boards, commissions, councils or institutions, and any officer, employee or member thereof acting or purporting to act in the exercise of official duties, but it does not include:
    a. Any court or judge or appurtenant judicial staff.
    b. The members, committees, or permanent or temporary staffs of the Iowa general assembly.
    c. The governor of Iowa or the governor's personal staff.
    d. Any instrumentality formed pursuant to an interstate compact and answerable to more than one state."
    Iowa Code § 2C.1(2).
    Thus, it appears that the Citizen's Aide has the statutory authority to investigate a complaint regarding actions taken with respect to the Open Records Law.

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  • Kansas

    Government body shall designate a local Freedom of Information Act officer who can be available to resolve disputes. K.S.A. 45-226.

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  • Kentucky

    The Kentucky Open Records Act does not provide for an ombudsman.

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  • Maine

    An ombudsman position exists within the Department of the Attorney General.  5 M.R.S.A. § 200-I.  The ombudsman is authorized to “[r]espond to and work to resolve complaints made by the public and public agencies and officials” concerning the FOAA.  Id. § 200-I(2)(C).  The ombudsman’s website can be accessed here: https://www.maine.gov/foaa/ombudsman/index.htm (last visited Oct. 2, 2018).

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  • Maryland

    Maryland has established an Office of the Public Access Ombudsman, with its office space and staff provided by the Office of the Attorney General. § 4-1B-02. The Attorney General appoints the Ombudsman, who must be admitted to practice law in Maryland. § 4-1B-03(b). The term of office is generally 4 years.  § 4-1B-03(d).  The Ombudsman, who is a full-time State employee, makes reasonable attempts to resolve disputes between applicants and custodians relating to requests for public records, including disputes over applications of an exemption; redactions of information in the public record; failures to produce a public record in a timely manner or to disclose all records relevant to the request; overly broad requests for public records; the amount of time a custodian needs, given available staff and resources, to produce public records; a request for or denial of a fee waiver; and repetitive or redundant requests from an applicant. § 4-1B-04(a). In fulfilling these duties, the Ombudsman may not compel disclosure of public records or redacted information, except to a designated Assistant Attorney General; or disclose information received from either a custodian or an applicant without written consent from the custodian or applicant. § 4-1B-04(b).

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  • Michigan

    The FOIA does not provide for an ombudsman.

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  • Montana

    There is no availability of an ombudsman under this act.

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  • Nebraska

    Nebraska has a State Ombudsman, but he has no role in enforcing the public records statutes.

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  • New Hampshire

    There is no ombudsman.

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  • New Jersey

    The statute does not provide for an ombudsman. However, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-7 establishes a Government Records Council which is charged with, among other things, establishing an informal mediation program to facilitate the resolution of disputes regarding access to government records.

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  • North Carolina

    There is no ombudsman, but “[i]f anyone requesting public information from any public agency is charged a fee that the requester believes to be unfair or unreasonable, the requester may ask the State Chief information officer or his designee to mediate the dispute.” G.S. 132-6.2(b).

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  • North Dakota

    The open records statute does not address the availability of an ombudsman.

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  • Ohio

    There is no ombudsman.

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  • Oregon

    The 2017 Legislature created the office of the Public Records Advocate. ORS 192.461-192.475. The Public Records Advocate’s role is to “provide facilitated dispute resolution services” when requested by either a requestor of public records held by a state agency or by the state agency itself. ORS 192.464.

    A facilitated dispute resolution is to be completed within 21 days of a written request to the advocate, subject to extension by the parties. ORS 192.464(7). If the process results in an agreed resolution, the advocate will prepare a written agreement for signing by the requestor and the agency, which agreement shall then control the resolution of the dispute. ORS 192.464(8).

    The Public Records Advocate “may” also provide such services in relation to requests for records from a city, upon the mutual consent of both the requestor and the city. ORS 192.464(6).

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  • Rhode Island

    No specific provision.  See, however, role of Attorney General, discussed above, in R.I. Gen. Laws § 38-2-8.

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  • Tennessee

    Yes. Office of the Open Records Counsel. T.C.A. §§ 8-4-601 to -604.

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  • Texas

    Not specifically addressed.

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  • Utah

    GRAMA makes no allowance for an ombudsman.

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  • Vermont

    There is no state ombudsman, however, the Vermont Legislature recently considered a measure that would create an independent ombudsman position that would be charged with reviewing records that have been blocked from release to determine whether state agencies are adequately protecting the public’s right to know.

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  • Washington

    There is no ombudsman provision in the Public Records Act. The Washington Attorney General’s Office has an “open government ombudsman,” who is available to consult on and assist with public records and open meetings issues. http://www.atg.wa.gov/OpenGovernment/Ombudsman.aspx .

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  • West Virginia

    Neither the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act nor the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act provides for an ombudsman.

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  • Wyoming

    Wyoming does not have an ombudsman.

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