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Public Records Law Compliance and Procedures

This content is meant to answer basic questions about public records and how to handle public records requests. Questions? Contact OGC.

What is Arizona Public Records Law?

What is Arizona Public Records Law?

Arizona Public Records Law is a series of statutes (and court cases that interpret those statutes) that describe public access to government information and that make government agencies (including ASU) accountable to the public by granting a right of access to records. The statutes are available at: A.R.S. § 39-101 to -161 and A.R.S. § 15-1640.

This law applies to all requests to inspect or copy public records pursuant to the Arizona Public Records Law and related applicable authorities.

What is a Public Record?

What is a Public Record?

The term "Public Records" is not defined by statute, but has been interpreted to include all records made or received by public employees in performance of their jobs, including records intended to disseminate information to the public or to create a record of official transactions or government expenditures. In other words, generally a record made by a public officer and kept under a duty of law to serve as a memorial of an official transaction.

Who may make a request for Public Records? And how?

Who may make a request for Public Records? And how?

Any person is entitled to inspect (during regular office hours) public information (in other words, any public records in the custody of any ASU employee) or be furnished copies, printouts, or photographs of any public record, subject to applicable legal requirements and this policy statement.

Although the request need not be in writing, the requester should submit a written request to better facilitate the process. To submit a public records request, send the request by e-mail to OGC and include as much detail as possible, such as the date range of the request, what specific public record or information is being requested, and any other supporting details to assist with identifying the requested records.

Are there any exceptions to Arizona Public Records Law?

Are there any exceptions to Arizona Public Records Law?

Yes. The following exceptions are construed narrowly.

Note: ASU employees are encouraged to consult with the Office of General Counsel before assuming that any of these exceptions apply.

  1. Certain statutes provide for confidentiality of records and exceptions to the Public Records Law. Examples include:
    1. student records/FERPA (In general, except for certain directory information, student educational records are exempt from disclosure under federal and state law.)
    2. research records
    3. donor information
  2. If the release of a record would constitute an invasion of personal privacy and that invasion would outweigh the public's right to know, then the record may be redacted, and in some cases, withheld from production. For example, Arizona legal authorities have concluded that a person has a privacy interest in his or her birth date and that state employees have privacy interests in their home addresses and phone numbers.
  3. If disclosure of a record is detrimental to the best interests of the state, then the record may be redacted, or in some cases, withheld from production.

Except as provided for in ASU SPP 1101 and ACD 811, personnel records shall be treated as exempt from the Arizona Public Records Law.

What is the procedure for complying with a Public Records Request?

What is the procedure for complying with a Public Records Request?

After a request is made, and before the records are produced, the custodian of the records must determine:

  • whether the documents requested are public records
  • whether any authorized grounds exist for denying public inspection
  • whether a charge should be imposed.

If copies or printouts are requested, the public records must remain in the possession, custody and control of the university employee who serves as custodian of such records.

All requests will be administered within a reasonable period of time in a manner which does not cause disruption of public business. What is a reasonable time and manner must in all cases be a factual determination depending upon the accessibility of the material.

Note: Upon receiving a Public Records Request from a member of the media, contact ASU Media Relations. In other situations, contact OGC.

Once the records are made ready:

  1. Records will be available for inspection or copying only during regular working/business hours (8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.), Monday through Friday.
  2. The requester will be provided adequate space to inspect public records or information at no cost.
  3. If a copy charge is assessed the requester will deposit a payment in the prescribed form with the university prior to receiving material.

Can ASU charge the requesting party?

Can ASU charge the requesting party?

Yes, ASU can charge to produce copies of records. Furthermore, if the requestor asks for copies to be mailed, ASU may require payment in advance for any copying and postal charges.

The ASU employee receiving the request will need to ask whether the records are sought for a non-commercial use or a commercial use which will affect the cost to be charged. The Legislature has distinguished between the fees the university may require for commercial and non-commercial requests for copies of public records.

Note: If the university is producing documents pursuant to a subpoena in a civil litigation matter to which the university is not a party, the fee is prescribed by state statute. Also, in this connection, the Office of General Counsel must review and approve disclosure of information required by lawfully issued administrative summons or judicial orders, including a search warrant or subpoena.

Non-commercial requests

For a request of more than 25 pages (8½ by 11 inches) in any calendar month the Office of General Counsel will charge a copying fee of 20¢ per page (per side), irrespective of whether they are produced in hard copy or electronic format, plus $10.00 per hour for staff time. The charge for non-standard size documents will be the actual cost of reproduction plus staff time at $10.00 per hour. Staff time will be charged pro rata on quarter hour increments. [Note: the University may not charge for the cost of searching for the records.]

Commercial requests

Persons requesting copies of public records for a commercial purpose must provide a certified statement setting forth the commercial purpose for which the records are requested. Upon being furnished a signed certification, the university employee who serves as custodian of the requested records will assess a charge which includes the following:

  • a portion of the cost to ASU of obtaining the original or copies of the records;
  • a reasonable fee for the cost of equipment and personnel used in producing such record or reproduction; and
  • the value of the record or reproduction in the commercial market.

"Commercial Purpose" means the use of public records for the purpose of producing a document containing all or part of the copy, printout or photograph for sale. It also includes the obtaining of names and addresses from public records for the purpose of solicitation or the sale of such name and addresses to another for the purpose of solicitation or for any purpose in which the requester can reasonably anticipate the receipt of monetary gain from the direct or indirect use of such public record. Commercial purpose does not mean the use of a public record as evidence or as research for evidence in an action in a judicial or quasi-judicial body of the State of Arizona, a political subdivision of the State, or the University.

In general, how does one know what records are required to be kept by a particular department/unit? And for how long?

In general, how does one know what records are required to be kept by a particular department/unit? And for how long?

Refer to PCS 703, "Records Storage and Destruction"

Who is responsible for preserving Public Records?

Who is responsible for preserving Public Records?

The law requires all ASU employees to maintain all records reasonably necessary or appropriate to maintain an accurate record of their official activities.

When ASU receives a Public Records Request, everyone is required to take steps to preserve the requested records.

Where can one find out more about Public Records Law and applicable policies?

Where can one find out more about Public Records Law and applicable policies?

20 United States Code § 1232g

Arizona Revised Statutes, § 39-121 et seq. and 15-141

ABOR 6-912, Access to or Disclosure of Personnel Records or Information

ABOR 3-803, Bidding and Source Selection Procedures

ACD 811, Access to and Release of Official Personnel Records Information

SSM 107-01, Release of Student Information

SPP 1101, Personnel Records

PUR 107, Public & Proprietary Information

RSP 104, Disclosure of Proposal-Award Information