Questionable answers (and questions)

In my job, I get to hear from folks all over the state, usually when they've been denied a request for records. This week alone I've heard.....

  • A request for a supervisor claiming his emails were exempt under the "thought process" exemption.
  • A request for budget codes for salaries denied because "FOIA doesn't require that."

There is a working papers and correspondence exemption for the chair of the board of supervisors, but not for the other members of the board. And there MIGHT be an applicable exemption or other law that applies to budget codes, but.....

It's not good enough for these requests to be denied by just throwing something out there -- thought process, FOIA doesn't require  -- without citing the law that allows the denial. What FOIA requires is written citation to the code section (FOIA exemption or other law) that allows the government to withhold or redact records.

On the other hand.....this week I also heard from someone who made requests for evidence supporting an elected official's opinion. 

FOIA is a records statute, not a statute for questions to be asked and answered.

I understood what the person was after -- the official accused citizens of interfering, and the person wanted to know how he arrived at that conclusion -- but just as government can't off-handedly deny records requests without citing to the statute, citizens have a duty to reasonably identify THE RECORDS they are seeking. 

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