Providing Public Records

Guidelines for Providing Public Records


 1. Purpose

The [governmental entity] fully embraces the tenets set forth in the Public Records Law, chapter 119, Florida Statutes, governing the public’s right to access records held by the agency. In support of the broad public right to access public records, [governmental entity] incorporates the following guidelines to inform agency staff about implementation of the Public Records Law within [governmental entity] and to provide uniformity within [governmental entity] in charging for access to public records.

2. Authority

Article I, section 24, Florida Constitution
Chapter 119, Florida Statutes

3. Scope

This document outlines policies, responsibilities, and describes procedures for providing access to public records. It should be applied to all activities which involve public records requests. These guidelines complement, but do not replace, the requirements under the Public Records Law.

4. Policies

The following policies are adopted:

a. Agency held records, except those specifically precluded from disclosure by statutory exemption, shall be available, in any form and format used by the agency, to all citizens for inspection or copying under the supervision of the records custodian or designee during normal business hours.
b. The widest possible access to existing public records is encouraged by making copies of those records available for a fee not to exceed the actual cost of duplication, and, if the nature or volume of public records requested to be inspected, examined, or copied requires extensive use of agency resources, the minimal additional cost to cover such extensive use of agency resources.
c. Innovative practices to enhance the public’s right of access to public records shall be encouraged.
d. [Governmental entity] shall assure that future information technology resources used to manage, store, or maintain public records adequately provide for the rights of the requester to access public records under chapter 119, Florida Statutes.

5. Responsibilities

a. Divisions, Districts, and Offices shall:

  1. identify the public records for which they are custodians. When these public records are shared such that a single custodian cannot clearly be identified, the custodian most responsible for maintaining access to these public records shall have custodial responsibility; and
  2. identify the types of public records and public record information under their custody which are exempt from inspection, examination, and copying under the Public Records Law.

b. Managers and supervisors shall:

  1. be knowledgeable of the public access activities occurring within their responsible areas;
  2. develop methods of calculating the extensive costs incurred when their information technology resources, clerical or supervisory staff or both are extensively used to respond to public records requests, unless such methods are already established by this directive;
  3. ensure actual cost of duplication and/or extensive use charges are applied to public records requests only when it is cost-effective to do so; and
  4. provide adequate staff training in the requirements of the Public Records Law and the policies set forth in these guidelines, with particular attention to staffs responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of exempt information or records.

c. A cost benefit analysis shall be conducted to determine whether the benefit of collecting fees for providing access to public records outweighs the cost to [government entity] of processing such fees. Records custodians and other providers of public records are responsible for collecting actual cost of duplication fees and/or extensive use charges from the requester only when such fees/charges have been supported by the requisite cost/benefit analysis.

6. Public Records Requests

Providers should accept requests for public records in writing, by electronic mail, by telephone, by facsimile, or in person. If the request is insufficient to identify the records sought, the provider should help the requester clarify,’ the request. The provider may ask the requester to complete forms to assist in defining or documenting the facts necessary for completing records requests; however, the requester is not obligated to complete these forms as a condition for obtaining the public records requested. Requests for records should be accepted and records made accessible for inspection or duplication during [governmental entity]‘s normal business hours.

7. Public Records Fees and Charge

The Public Records Law allows government agencies to collect the actual cost of material and supplies used to duplicate public records for requesters. Agencies may also collect a reasonable service charge, in addition to actual cost fees, when a request for public records requires the extensive use of information technology resources and/or clerical or supervisory assistance. [Governmental entity] considers records requests taking more than [unit of time] to locate, copy, or otherwise make available the requested material as a diversion of resources which is susceptible to extensive use service charges. The following fee/charge standards and guidelines are designed to ensure that [governmental entity] is consistent in its application of rules which allow the recovery of actual and extensive use costs.
Actual Cost of Duplication – The custodian is responsible for determining the actual cost of duplication when public records requests are produced using a material other than those listed below.

  1. Paper Copies – Paper copies up to 8 1/2in x 14in in size shall be provided at a cost of not more than 15 cents per one-sided copy and 20 cents for a double-sided copy, and for all other copies, upon payment of the actual cost of duplication of the record. The cost of providing a certified copy of a public record shall be no more than 1 dollar.
  2. Printer Paper – The charge for computer printer paper shall be no more than [actual cost] per printed page of letter or legal size, and for all other paper sizes, the actual cost of duplication.
  3. 3.Shipping – U.S. postage, commercial shipping carriers, or other costs incurred in the delivery of public records shall be included in the actual costs charged to the requester.

Extensive Use Charges – Extensive use charges shall not be randomly or automatically applied. Rather, each public records request must be evaluated to determine if extensive use charges are warranted. Extensive use charges shall be applied in conformity with the definition set forth on page 5 of these guidelines.

  1. Labor Time – When extensive clerical and/or supervisory labor time is spent in the inspection or production of a public records request, a service charge for labor should be applied by computing the actual cost of providing such labor. The Labor Costs Table at Attachment 1 [to be attached by governmental agency] shall be used to determine applicable labor charges.
  2. Information Technology Resources – Providers shall use the documented fee/charge methods established by their division, district, or office when charging for the extensive use of information technology resources and a copy of such documented method shall be provided upon request. Service charges shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use.

Fee Collection

  1. When all allowable fees/charges applicable to a particular public records request can be calculated in advance, they should be collected prior to the provider investing significant information technology resources and/or clerical or supervisory assistance.
  2. Where actual costs and extensive use fees cannot be immediately determined due to the nature of the request, the provider shall give an estimated cost for producing the records and inform the requester that the actual cost may vary, but will not exceed the original estimate by more than an additional 25%. Providers should ensure estimates are accurate within 25% of the actual cost. The requester accepts the cost estimate, and then the provider may fill the public records request. Once the records are ready, the provider shall notice the requester of the cost and furnish the public records upon receipt of payment.
  3. Should the requester fail to pay the actual costs and/or extensive use charges incurred to produce the request, the provider shall refer the non-payment to [appropriate financial office].
  4. No sales tax is to be charged for a public records request. 5.All checks should be made payable to [governmental entity]. [Appropriate routine for collecting and documenting cash and checks, and for invoicing requesters.]

Charges Waivers – Fees or charges may be waived between [governmental entity] and other government agencies, by agreement between management, when the recurring exchanges or data sharing between agencies negates the need to apply these fees.

8. Public Records Exemptions

The [governmental entity] is responsible for protecting information defined as confidential or as otherwise prohibited from public inspection or copying under the Public Records Law. All exemptions to the Public Records Law can be found in the Florida Statutes. A list of [governmental entity] records presently exempt from public inspection, examination, and copying is found at Attachment 2 [to be compiled and attached by governmental entity]. Any exemption in existence or hereafter enacted shall not be deemed waived or otherwise void or unenforceable simply because it is not included in this list. The Florida Statutes should be consulted for a more complete understanding of a particular exemption.
The following standards and controls should be followed to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized release of confidential and exempt information:

a. Confidential information shall be redacted (extracted) from records prior to public release or examination of the nonexempt portions.
b. Future data processing Systems which are expected to maintain or provide access to confidential or sensitive records shall be designed with redaction capabilities so that only nonexempt portions of records can be extracted and made available to a public records requester. Redaction capability shall be a component in the redesign of existing systems.
c. Providers are responsible for informing the requester when requests cannot be filled due to an exemption which prevents disclosure. Upon request, the provider must provide the basis for this exemption and its statutory citation.

9. Definitions

For the purpose of this directive, the following terms are defined:

a. Confidential or Sensitive Records – Records which are presently provided by law to be confidential or which are prohibited from being inspected by the public by either general or special Jaw.
b. Extensive Use of Resources – When the nature or volume of the public records requested to be inspected, examined, or copied requires the use of [governmental entity] information technology resources and/or labor time required of clerical or supervisory employees exceeds [unit of time], the particular use of such resources is considered extensive.
c. Provider – The individual within [governmental entity], usually the public records custodian or designee, who makes public records available to a requester for inspection, examination, or copying.
d. Public Record – All documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, or other material, regardless of physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by any agency.
e. Requester – A person, firm, association, joint venture, partnership, estate, corporation, or any other group or combination who has made a public records request to inspect, examine, copy, or receive copies of documents in the custody or control of the [governmental entity] pursuant to chapter 119, Florida Statutes.

Responsible Office: [appropriate office within governmental entity]


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