Public Access Opinion 15-004

Freedom of Information Act – Settlement Agreements

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 15-004
Date: Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements that directly relate to a public body’s use of public funds will not exempt the public body from having to provide such records under FOIA. FOIA specifically provides that all settlement agreements entered into by or on behalf of a public body are public records subject to inspection and copying by the public. In addition to the issue above, when responding to FOIA requests, public bodies must perform searches calculated to uncover the requested documents.

The take away here is that public bodies (a) may not use confidentiality agreements as a shield from responding to FOIA, and (b) must perform reasonable searches calculated to uncover the requested documents.

This opinion is binding only to the parties involved and may be appealed pursuant to State law.