March 18, 2011

Dropping the ball on public records requests

As Sunshine Week comes to an end, NPRI's Karen Gray takes a look at how quickly various state agencies respond to public records requests:

Take, for example, a recent NPRI attempt to understand the nuances of legal billing at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. In September 2010, the Institute filed a public-records request for onsite inspection of monthly billings by one law firm under contract with UMC. Finally, in the first week of March 2011 — more than five months and many, many e-mails later — NPRI received photocopies of the records — in which all references to services rendered had been redacted.

The public records law says quite clearly that after a government entity receives a written record request, it must, by the end of the fifth business day, produce the records or provide a requester written notice of the date and time the records will be available for inspection, if it has legal custody of the records.

Furthermore, say the statutes, if an entity must deny inspection of a record or part thereof because it is confidential, it must provide the requester a written "citation to the specific statute or other legal authority that makes the public book or record, or a part thereof, confidential."

UMC did neither.

Make sure to read the whole thing.