Q&A: Are records requests public records?

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From the Indianapolis Business Journal:

Q: Do public agencies in Indiana have to keep track of public records requests that they fulfill? The city of Indianapolis counsel says that would be part of her attorney work product, but I thought they had to keep the log as a public record.

A: There is no statutory requirement for a public agency to keep a log of records requests under the state’s Access to Public Records Act. It would be good practice though.

If the agency does keep a log, it would by definition be a public record. And officials must disclose public records and make them available for inspection and copying unless the agency can cite statutory authority requiring it to be confidential or giving the agency the discretion to keep it confidential.

I would argue that a log of public records requests would not be subject to the exception for “work product of an attorney” [IC 5-14-3-4(b)(2)]. Under the statute that term means “information compiled by an attorney in reasonable anticipation of litigation. The term includes the attorney’s: (1) notes and statements taken during interviews of prospective witnesses; and (2) legal research of records, correspondence, reports, or memoranda to the extent that each contains the attorney’s opinions, theories, or conclusions.”

I don’t believe a log of record requests fits this definition.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.

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