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It is important that the responses to all public records requests - regardless of whether made in-person, in writing, or by some other means - be coordinated by the person assigned by the Agency or Public Contractor as responsible for the supervision, maintenance, and control of the materials sought "the Designated Custodian". The Designated Custodian is often not the employee who has physical possession of materials.

Public Record Requests | Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Public records requests received by an employee other than the Designated Custodian "the Employee" should immediately be forwarded to the Designated Custodian for further handling. The individual making an in-person request "the Requester" will often infer - whether intentionally or not - that the Employee has the legal obligation to provide copies or allow access to the materials sought. Alternatively, the Requester may ask the Employee to email the materials to him or her.

In virtually every instance, no such obligation exists. Such in-person requests are usually made to an Employee whose workplace is easily accessible to members of the public.

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The Employee may also be selected by the Requester because the Requester believes that the Employee's work station is in close proximity to the records being requested. For example, a receptionist might be asked for a copy of the visitors' log or an administrative assistant might be asked for the calendar of an Agency official or Public Contractor manager.

In those instances, the Employee must clearly state that he or she is not the records custodian. It is equally important that the Employee not inadvertently make statements suggesting that the Agency or Public Contractor will not comply with the PRA. The suggested responses in italics below are provided to illustrate that statements made to a Requester should be simple and straightforward, but should not imply either that the PRA request is being denied or how and when the requested materials will be made available.

If the Requester presses for an answer on those issues, the Employee should consistently state that the Designated Custodian will respond to the request within a reasonable period of time. Most people making public records requests have a legitimate reason for wanting to see or obtain copies of specific materials.

The Requester's motives are irrelevant. Under Florida law, the right of access to public records applies regardless of the reasons for seeking such access. While the PRA is very broad, access to all Agency or Public Contractor documents and other materials is not completely unrestricted. Some materials are not public records. Some fall under one or more of the numerous exemptions to the requirement that records be accessible to the public.

In short, each public records request must be carefully considered so that the Agency or Public Contractor response fully complies with applicable law.

Public Records And You!

This is the role of the Designated Custodian, sometimes in consultation with the Agency's or Public Contractor's attorney or other personnel who are knowledgeable about the materials and the PRA. I am not the custodian of any of the public records of an Agency or Public Contractor. The PRA imposes responsibilities on the custodian of public records, including the responsibility to provide access to or copies of public records unless there is a specific statutory exemption. However, not every employee of an Agency or Public Contractor is a custodian. Even documents or materials that are in close physical proximity to the Employee's work station are not officially in his or her custody.

For example, a visitor's sign-in log may be positioned on a ledge on the receptionist desk. Nonetheless, the receptionist is not the custodian of the sign-in log.

Sample Public Records Request

The Employee who receives an oral public records request is required to identify the Designated Custodian. This need not be a specific individual but could, instead, be a specific position or office. I understand that you are making a public records request. The records custodian will respond to your request. If you have any questions or need more information in order to expedite this request, please call me at [phone number where you or your editor can be reached].

How to Make a Public Records Request, Oct. 8, 2018

Sincerely, Your Name Your Address. Connect with the College of Journalism and Communications Keep up with the latest news about faculty, alumni, friends, and current students. Follow us on social media. In order to properly respond to the request, however, the Designated Custodian needs to know how the Requester characterizes the materials sought. There may be instances when the description is vague or extremely broad.

There may even be occasions when the Employee is relatively certain that no such materials exist.

Frequently Asked Questions: Requesting a Public Record from the City of Bunnell

However, the Employee should refrain from offering that information or giving any response regarding the nature of the materials requested. Instead, the Employee should simply make an accurate report of what the Requester has asked for. The Designated Custodian or a person appointed by the Designated Custodian should be the one to follow up with the Requester regarding the substance and scope of the request. You can contact [the Designated Custodian] at [telephone number or email address] to inquire about the status of your request or, if you prefer, you can leave your contact information and [he or she] will contact you.

Requesters are not required to identify themselves or to state whether the request is being made on their own behalf or on behalf of an organization or corporate entity. Nor is a Requester required to provide any contact information. If a Requester declines to give his or her name or any contact information, the Employee should provide the telephone number, email address, or some other method for the Requester to contact the Designated Custodian for follow-up on the status of the request.

I'm not the records custodian and, therefore, can't provide you with any information regarding the [existence or nature or volume or format, etc] of the materials you are seeking. The manner in which the Agency or Public Contractor responds to a public records request varies depending upon what is being requested and the manner in which the Requester seeks access.

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  8. Because there can be so much variation in the appropriate response that must be given, that analysis and decision must be made by the Designated Custodian, sometimes in consultation with legal counsel or others employed by the Agency or Public Contractor. I have noted your public records request in writing and will forward it to the records custodian.

    Any further communication regarding your request must be directed to [the Designated Custodian]. Most Requesters will be satisfied with the responses suggested above. However, some may either insinuate or even insist that the Employee is required to allow the Requester to immediately inspect or even photograph the materials being requested. While an Agency or Public Contractor may ultimately provide such access, the Employee should not make that decision.

    Nor should the Employee get into a debate with the Requester or feel compelled to respond to questions after informing the Requester that the Designated Custodian will provide the responses. Instead, merely react in a manner consistent with the suggestions above. The Employee should promptly forward his or her notes regarding the request to the Designated Custodian. Don't panic. Don't allow yourself to be bullied. Carlton Fields publications should not be construed as legal advice on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general information and educational purposes only, and should not be relied on as if it were advice about a particular fact situation.

    The distribution of this publication is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship with Carlton Fields.

    This publication may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or proceeding without the prior written consent of the firm, to be given or withheld at our discretion. To request reprint permission for any of our publications, please use our Contact Us form via the link below. The views set forth herein are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the firm.

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