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Public Access Opinion 14-010

Freedom of Information Act: responding to requests

Administrator Contracts
Case: Public Access Opinion 14-010
Date: Monday, September 8, 2014

This opinion is similar to PAO 14-007.

TRY: When a public body responds to a FOIA request, it must conduct a “reasonable search tailored to the nature of a particular request” and “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents.” It “cannot limit its search to only one record system if there are others that are likely to turn up the requested information.”

TRY AGAIN: A public body cannot treat records request #2, which is identical to records request #1, as unduly burdensome when it never responded to records request #1. FOIA states that “repeat requests from the same person for the same records that are unchanged or identical to records previously provided (here, records from request #1 were never provided) or properly denied (again, records from request #1 were improperly withheld) shall be deemed unduly burdensome… .”

NARROWED REQUEST: A public body does not have to treat a narrowed request as another new FOIA request. That means that if the requestor tries to narrow the request in response to the public body’s explanation, it is not another new FOIA request but simply an extension of the conversation about the current request. While a requestor’s narrowing of his or her request does not need to be treated as a new request, the public body should continue to make efforts to respond to it.

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