Public Records Policy
The City of Archer complies with Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes in regards to public records: availability, retention, cost, maintenance and exemptions, among other considerations. A link to a copy of the Chapter is provided below, as well as pertinent opinions from the Attorney General’s office.
I. Costs of producing information, and cost for time and materials
As the bulk of our records are in digital format and easily retrievable we attempt to fulfill requests for copies quickly. However; large document requests and those which require extensive staff resources to accumulate data entail costs for time and materials that must be collected by the City.
Both named and anonymous citizens requesting such extensive material will be required to pay for the estimated costs prior to actual production. In order to retain anonymous status, the person requesting the material must make some arrangements for payment that will not reveal their identity. This can be done by having the funds delivered to City Hall, earmarked for the specific request. In most cases, we identify each request by the name of the person submitting the request. In the case of the anonymous request, we cannot do this, so the payment needs to be made for the specific content of the material for purposes of identification.
We will inform those requesting large amounts of information of our best estimate as to the costs involved for gathering and producing it. Therefore, the decision is left to the requestor as to whether we proceed or not. By paying for the requested time and materials up front, both parties are protected and assured that their interests are served.
A list of the fees associated with public records requests is available on the website under the Government tab. The Public Records Policy is located below.
II. Creating records
The City is not required to “create” records by Chapter 119. A public record is an actual document, map, memo, tape or video (among other definitions). Those are provided as called for by the law.
An example of a “created” public record would be, for example, honoring a request for all excerpts from all tapes of any mention of the phrase “Developer’s Agreement.” The person requesting such a document would need to request all the tapes, review each one, and compile his own list of such excerpts. The City does not maintain such a document, so it is not available as a public record. Conversely, if the City did maintain such a record, it would be obliged to provide that record. In the first instance, the information exists in the public record, but not as a formalized document; it must be researched and created. It is not the responsibility of the City to create a public document to fulfill a request for such information; it is our responsibility to provide all the information necessary for the citizen to create his own document from the pertinent body of information.
Another example: Utility customers may avail themselves of some or all of the services the City provides. A request for the Finance Department to produce a list of all customers who use electric but not sewer would result in a “created” document, since the Billing does not routinely produce or use such a listing. The request would properly be for all billing information for all customers, from which the citizen could glean the information he is seeking.
III. Responding to a request in a “reasonable” time
The City must take into account its obligation to the citizens for the daily operation of City government when presented with a voluminous request. To request that staff immediately cease normal business in order to fulfill such requests quickly would disrupt the normal workflow and cause disruption in services to the rest of the citizens. The accumulation of materials, research and time involved must be weighed against the daily obligations to the taxpayers. Thus, “reasonable” must be defined by staff resources and workload, and not by an arbitrary time frame.
IV. Media considerations
The City recognizes the value and public good provided by a courteous and mutually respectful relationship with the Fourth Estate. To further the free flow and exchange of information vital to the public, we will attempt to accommodate requests from the press for information critical to their articles while keeping their deadlines in mind. Since it is the policy of the City to be compensated for costs, such time sensitive requests (usually for information already at hand and available) will be the sole exception to the policy of payment in advance. However, should this accommodation be abused through non-payment of these costs, the offending party may be denied this accommodation in future.