Public Access Opinion 16-008

Unduly Burdensome Requests

Freedom of Information Act - FOIA
Case: Public Access Opinion 16-008
Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A public body violated FOIA by improperly asserting that the requestor’s request was unduly burdensome under Section 3(g). The requestor requested all emails between a specific employee of the public body and a private planning/architecture firm during a one month period. The public body responded by asserting the request was unduly burdensome because it had discovered 50 responsive emails comprising nearly 174 pages of material, and it asked the requestor to narrow her request. When a public body asks a requestor to narrow his/her request because it believes the request is unduly burdensome, this constitutes a denial under Section 3(g) of FOIA. Using a balancing test to determine whether complying with a request is unduly burdensome, the PAC asked whether the public interest in disclosure of the requested records outweighs the burden of compliance on the public body. The PAC found the public body “did not demonstrate with specificity how the process of retrieving and reviewing these records would constitute a significant burden on its operations” such that it would outweigh the public interest in disclosure. The PAC ordered the public body to immediately disclose the requested emails, subject to appropriate redactions.

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