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.
Although the Act does not specifically provide for an ombudsperson, 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.”
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).
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.
The Supervisor of Public Records, an administrative official in the Division of Public Records, which in turn is located within the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, is empowered to rule on the public status of government records held by entities subject to the act. That division generally has an attorney assigned each day to respond to inquiries from the public. To speak to the “Attorney of the Day,” call (617) 828-2832 between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on business days. The office generally declines to provide advisory opinions.
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.
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).
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.
There is no ombudsperson 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.