Inspection of Public Records Act Compliance Guide: 2012
The Inspection of Public Records Act is intended to provide the public with access to information about governmental affairs. Open government—that is, the public’s access to government actions—is a crucial aspect of a functioning democracy. This Compliance Guide has been prepared to inform the public, state and local government agencies, and all other public bodies subject to the Act about the Act’s requirements and application. The law requires public access to virtually all public records. While there are a few legitimate exceptions, most are available for public inspection. We encourage public officials to be liberal in providing public access and to honor all reasonable and legitimate requests for records.
Responsibility for enforcement of this Act lies with individual citizens, the District Attorneys and the Attorney General. In giving citizens the right to sue if they are denied access to public records and awarding them attorneys fees when they are successful, the legislature wisely created a large number of “private attorneys general” to help enforce the Act. This concept of private attorneys general is a tried-and-true American legal mechanism by which legislators ensure enforcement of important public policies when public funds and public officials’ resources are limited. Because the Attorney General and the District Attorneys cannot be everywhere, it is imperative that private citizens enforce their right to inspect public records. This Guide is intended to assist all citizens in this crucial effort. It also is intended as a guide to public officials to assist them in their efforts to govern in the sunshine. They know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We sincerely hope that this Guide assists public bodies in complying with the Act and helps members of the public to understand their right to inspect public records.