Tips for Requesting Public Records
- Be specific. Provide enough information for the agency to identify and understand what it is you are seeking so they can search their files for the information. Specify the time period for the documents, to the month, day, and year, if possible.
- Ask for assistance. The local agency has a duty to assist requesters in reformulating requests to make them clearer or less broad. Contact the public records request liaison for the agency and give as much information as possible to ensure that what is delivered is a manageable and useful response to your request. You may also consult with the City Attorney's Open Government Coordinator.
Who can make a request for public records?
Anyone can make a request to inspect or obtain copies of a public record.
What records must be produced?
Records subject to the CPRA include records in any media, including electronic media, in which government agencies may possess records. Records include letters, words, pictures, and sound recordings, for example.
Are some documents exempt from disclosure?
Under the California Public Records Act and the Oakland Sunshine Ordinance, some records are exempt from disclosure. Examples of records that do not have to be disclosed are:
• Personnel records
• Medical records
• Home telephone numbers
• Social Security numbers
• Documents that are subject to the attorney-client privilege
• Trade secrets
• Documents protected from disclosure by the State Constitutional Right to Privacy
• Certain law enforcement records
• Records protected from disclosure by state and federal laws
If a City agency determines the records you’ve requested cannot be produced, you must be notified in writing no later than ten days after the receipt of your request and the legal authority justifying why the records will not be produced must be included.
How long will it take the City to respond to my request?
The CPRA states that copies of records shall be made available “promptly.” Simple and/or routine requests may take no more than a few hours or days from the time the request is made.
If a City agency determines the records you’ve requested are not simple or routine, the local agency has up to ten days to determine whether it will comply with the request. You must be notified of the determination in writing no later than ten days after the receipt of your request. The CPRA provides that in “unusual circumstances” the ten day period may be extended by another 14 days, but only upon written notification from the agency head explaining the reasons for the extension and the day they expect to make the determination.
City staff may require clarification from you. If your request requires more than a few days for a response or may involve confidential records, City staff must advise you no later than ten days after receipt of the request.
What if the information I am seeking is not contained in a particular record?
Local agencies are not required to create documents to respond to a records request or to answer specific questions. If the information is stored electronically, then it must be produced in the format in which the agency holds the information.
Will I be charged for the staff time it takes to produce a record?
No. The cost of producing records is limited to the direct costs of duplication which does not include the staff time to assemble and review documents. The City’s Master Fee Schedule limits photocopies to 10 cents per page.
Is the City required to provide the record in a format that accommodates my disability?
City staff must make every effort to assist the requestor with requesting the record (including but not limited to entering request in RecordTrac) and/or to reproduce the record in an effective format for the requestor. For example, if a person with a hearing impairment requests a record of a meeting recorded on audio disc, the staff should make every effort to provide a written transcript of the disk.
English is not my first language. Will the City provide me with a translation?
If a requester is unable to read in English, please contact the Equal Access office.
How do I get assistance with my public records request?
If you need assistance with your public records request:
- Speak with the agency’s Public Records Requests liaison.
- Consult with the City Attorney's Open Government Coordinator.
If you have already contacted the Public Records liaison and Open Government Coordinator and have not received a timely response to your request, you can contact the Public Ethics Commission for advice and assistance.