A public records request is a formal petition for documents or information considered public domain. This can include anything from emails and text messages to meeting minutes and other official documents. When you receive a public records request, you must comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
When you first receive a public records request, you might wonder if it’s genuine or legitimate. After all, a record number of scam artists are trying to get a hold of your information, which could even include communication data.
So, what do officials usually include in a legitimate public records request? It all depends on who sends the request and why. Here are some general criteria:
In most areas, anyone can submit a public records request. For example, New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act permits people to view public information on government transactions and processes. However, it does require that the person submitting the request include the following information:
It varies depending on the state and the government office. More often than not, the person will need to submit the request in writing. There is often also a form on the government website, or they may write a letter. Some states and agencies have the right to charge a reasonable fee to cover the costs of complying with the request.
For example, when New Mexicans reach out to the records custodian at the Office of the Superintendent, they can expect to pay for printed pages. The fee currently stands at 25 cents per page, and they must pay upfront.
Any organization considered a public body is subject to receiving public records requests. This includes government agencies at all levels as well as non-profit organizations and businesses that receive government funding.
Private government contractors are also covered under public records request laws in some states. For example, if your PR company handles a public campaign or your construction company installs public infrastructure, you could become subject to a public records request.
Your first step should be to determine if the documents you have are, in fact, public records. This can be a complex process, and you may need to consult with your legal counsel. Once you have determined that the messages are public records, you will need to take steps to preserve them.
Your legal counsel will be able to advise you on how to best comply with the request. Here are some general steps they might recommend that you take:
The purpose of a public records request is to allow civilians to access the information they have a right to see. In some cases, it could result from a suspected coverup and a follow-up investigation. Sometimes, the requester might want to know how the government spends tax dollars. In any case, you should take a public record request seriously.
If you receive a public records request, you must take action quickly to ensure compliance. LeapXpert can help you manage your messages and other communications data. That way, you can easily find the information you need to respond to a public records request involving communication data. We can also help you redact exempt information from your records to release them without disclosing sensitive information. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you comply with a public records request.