2021 Public Record Refresh: Growing from Last Year’s Events

In response to the civil unrest that spread across the country in the summer of 2020, states look to refresh their public record language around harassments and complaints.

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Tennessee lawmaker seeks to restrict public record requests deemed as 'harassments'

Under SB 135, introduced by [Tennessee] Sen. Ferrell Haile, government entities would hold the power to launch a mediation process with those requesting public records — and the ability to seek an injunction to block the request if the mediation fails — as long as the staff deem the requests as “harassments.”

Proponents of the bill argue the legislation helps filter out frivolous requests, but open records advocates have cautioned the bill could erode public access to government documents and allow government entities to sue over requests they dislike.

Read More | Tennessean 


Illinois lawmakers pass ‘transformational’ criminal justice legislation to allow for anonymous complaints

Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday [Jan. 13] used the final hours of the general assembly’s lame duck session to pass a sweeping and controversial criminal justice reform bill that would eliminate cash bail, make it easier to ban officers from working at police departments across the state, and allow for anonymous complaints against cops.

[John Catanzara, the head of the police union for Chicago’s rank-and-file cops] said allowing for anonymous complaints against officers, and the creation of a more robust police certification process, would make officers “more apt to do absolutely nothing” because of fear of losing their jobs.

Read MoreWBEZ News

Ann Arbor won’t release internal investigation reports for complaints against police

The Ann Arbor Police Department [in December] denied a Freedom of Information Act request by The Ann Arbor News/MLive for copies of the “summary and recommendation” reports that detail lieutenant and sergeant findings from their investigations of citizen complaints.

MLive appealed the decision, but City Administrator Tom Crawford upheld the denial this week.

The city has released some of the reports in question in the past, showing they contain police findings in incidents where a citizen filed a formal complaint about officer conduct.

Read More Michigan Live News


It’s illegal for South Carolina officials to hide public records. But if they’re lost, you can’t sue

The S.C. Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday [Jan. 13] that a citizen can’t sue the government for failing to save documents that the public has a right to access.

The case came from Newberry County, where attorney Desa Ballard represented a former part-time chief magistrate. To build her case, Ballard requested copies of about five years’ worth of the county administrator’s texts and emails in December 2014.

[However,] the administrator’s laptop had crashed a few months before, erasing much of the information Ballard needed. The county didn’t have a central email server or backup system and hadn’t archived the text messages.

Judge Blake Hewitt penned an opinion finding that the circuit court had erred by ruling that the county had violated FOIA at all.

Read More | The Post and Courier

Peer Resources

2021 Peer in Public Records Survey

So far we’ve heard from approximately 280 Public Record Managers on their priorities for the coming year. Here is what we’ve heard this far…

75% of respondents say ‘Quantity of Response Documents Per Request” is the biggest driver of public records complexity. Do you Agree?

Take the 2021 Peers in Public Records Survey

Be sure to participate in the 2021 Peers in Public Records Survey for a detailed analysis of our comprehensive findings.

Read More | GovQA

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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