Governor McCrory has declared the week of March 16-22 as Sunshine Week, an entire week dedicated to openness and transparency in government. As government officials and employees, we do not own the records in our offices. The people are the owners, and we are the custodians. This means that the people have the right to access the records in our offices, unless a specific state or federal statute says otherwise.
As the repository for records of enduring value to the citizens of North Carolina, the State Archives of North Carolina is committed to transparency across state and local government. This commitment extends to records that are still in the custody of their creators, through the training and advice we give to government agencies.
In honor of Sunshine Week, we invite you to go through some of our older posts about access to public records, here.
- Does FOIA Apply to Me?
- What’s the Motive? Or, do I have to fill a Public Records Request from THEM?
- Who to ask when you want records
- Give me all your records
We also have a large number of posts on exceptions to the Public Records Law: when state or federal statutes make a specific type of record or information confidential.
- FAQ: Confidentiality and Privilege Licenses
- FAQ: Are they personnel?
- FAQ: Letters of Dismissal
- Trade Secrets and Confidentiality
- Employee Home Phone Numbers: Public or Private?
For even more Public Records goodness, check out Frayda Bluestein‘s posts on UNC School of Government’s Local Law Blog. Bluestein specializes in open government and public access to records, and many of her posts concern recent litigation or legislative updates that can help clarify when a record should be open for public inspection or not.
Finally, a few reminders for those of us who create and keep public records in our custody.
- The law directs us to fill public records requests “as promptly as possible.” It may not be feasible to fill a large public records request immediately, but it’s good customer service to get back to your requester if it’s going to take more than 1-2 days to fulfill, and give him or her an estimate.
- If confidential information (for example, a citizen’s social security number) is on an otherwise open document that someone has requested, your office must redact that record and bear the cost of redaction.
- Whenever you create a public record, including an email, text message, or post on social media, remember that anyone can see it or request a copy, unless a state or federal statute makes it confidential.