1). The law says the public can walk into a government office and ask to see specific records (a 5-day delay for the information only applies to written requests). If they don’t get the infer, leave them a letter of notice saying the information requested wasn’t given and activate the 5-day reply period;
2). Submit a request to determine who the ‘custodian’ of the records is. Under the law, every office and department of the city, for example, must have appointed a custodian of the records.
3). The next simple step is to then request to see the ‘index’ of documents from the custodian for the particular office. In many cases, the index will direct your hunt for documents to a specific place.
4). Then ask for the documents. If you ask for copies, ask in advance what the cost to provide the copies will be. The office cannot charge you more for the documents that it costs to produce - the copier ink and the paper - usually mere cents. They cannot include the cost of office overhead and such to inflate the costs beyond the actual costs. (The cost of the office is already paid for, the salaries for the people are already paid for, you should only paid the basic document cost).
5). If still denied then you may have to go to court, an event many citizens can accomplish on their own, even if the government brings a lawyer. There are certain steps to follow that will almost assure your success.
Lindsey told the group it is a class 4 felony for an office to not have an index. As an exercise in FOIA, he suggested that several members at Saturday’s breakfast meeting use the above method to obtain a copy of the index of Mayor Will Sessoms. You should write the mayor for a copy of his index, Lindsey said.
The FOIA is written whereby skilled citizens can obtain almost any information they want except personnel files of government employees.
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