Public Records Access
The February Sentinel had an article about the Public Records Act and how to get information from the government. The Press Democrat staff has been exercising that right. The results appear to have been good with the following results. Of the 26 agencies contacted, 18 provided the requested forms without a further prompt. Five responded after a second e-mail. Two agencies (Petaluma Police Department and Sonoma County Office of Education) acknowledged the requests and promised records but as of March 19th had not yet delivered them. The Santa Rosa City School District did not acknowledge the request which was e-mailed directly to the District Superintendent. The District had responded to public records request following the stabbing incident at Montgomery High School.
Form 700 which is the form required for a document request is fairly straightforward. However, what is harder to obtain is notes, calendars, disciplinary records or communications that could cast public officials in a poor light. Around 42% of requesters got some but not all of the records they asked for while almost 5% of requests were denied citing exemptions to the law.
Apparently, at the state level, David Loy, Legal Director of the First Amendment Coalition, states that “we get way too many calls about significant violations of the act.” The Coalition is a group people can call when records requests do not go well.