What is the purpose of the California Public Records Act ("PRA")?
The purpose of the PRA is to provide the public access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business.
What are public records?
A "Public Record" is "any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics."
Who can request public records?
Anyone may make a request to inspect or obtain a copy of a public record. A requester is not required to provide a reason for the request.
Can I still find public records without submitting a PRA request?
Yes. The County’s main website and individual department websites contain information, reports, and other material that you may find helpful.
Beyond records held by the departments, there may be records that have already been uploaded to the County’s website. The following list summarizes commonly requested public records that are currently available online:
- Board of Supervisors Meeting agenda, minutes, and videos
- Park Ranger-Reported Incidents
- Unclaimed Checks
- Food Facility Health Inspections
What if I only have a question or want general information?
General questions or requests for information, typically do not qualify as PRA requests. If you are seeking general information, rather than a public record, please contact the appropriate department.
What documents can be released in response to a PRA request?
Responsive public records that are not subject to an exemption can be released. The County is not required to create new records, collect, or analyze information, or conduct legal research.
What makes a record exempt?
The PRA does not require and, in some cases, forbids the production of certain information and/or records. For example, personally identifiable information such as a public employee’s home address, home telephone number, cell phone number, and birth date cannot be released in response to a PRA request, pursuant to California Government Code section 6254.3. Other exemptions include attorney-client privilege, attorney work product, and deliberative process.
The responding department may and, sometimes must, redact specific information in the record or withhold the entire record, depending on the applicable exemption.
Some of the types of records that are potentially exempt include:
- Personnel records, medical records, and similar files which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if publicly disclosed;
- Records pertaining to pending litigation to which a public agency is a party;
- Preliminary drafts, notes, and memorandum;
- Records covered by attorney-client privilege;
- Examination data used to administer a licensing, employment, or academic examination;
- Medi-Cal personal identifiable information;
- HIPAA protected information; and
- Criminal history information.
When can I expect a response?
Upon receiving a request for records that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, County staff will respond within 10 calendar days with a determination of whether or not it has responsive records. Under certain circumstances, the County can extend the time for determination up to 14 calendar days.
If the due date falls on a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday, the response is due on the following business day.
When do I get the responsive records?
If the County has responsive, non-exempt records, then the records will be produced within a reasonable time period. If the County cannot provide the records during the time for making a determination, it will provide a good faith estimate of when the copies will be available.
Please note that staff needs to collect the records, review the records for any exempt information, and potentially consult with counsel before making the records available for production. These tasks must be completed in addition to and in conjunction with normal County business.
If you need the records sooner, consider working with County staff to narrow the request. For example, consider limiting the time period of your request (e.g., request the current County budget documents instead of the County’s budget documents for the last 20 years).
If a request is submitted through the County PRA system (NextRequest), you may receive an email when a response or record is available.
I have an idea of what I am looking for but am not sure which documents to request. Now what?
Call the applicable Custodian of Records to clarify your request and how best to get the information and/or records you are seeking.
How do I know if my request has been submitted?
Requesters using the online request form will receive an acknowledgement e-mail along with e-mail updates about the request and also have the option of creating an account in the County PRA system (NextRequest) to see the status of the request, download documents, set e-mail preferences, and track communication.
How much do the records cost?
Records e-mailed, viewed in-person, or made available through the County PRA system (NextRequest) are free of charge. Some records are not available in an electronic format or are too voluminous to send electronically.
Duplication fees are 15 cents per 8½” by 11” page. The fee for a CD or a flash drive is determined by individual departments. The County must receive payment before duplication begins. Checks should be made payable to the “County of Marin.”
Requesters do not pay for the staff time to search for and collect the records.