Be Prepared for Open Records Requests
If you received a call requesting a faculty member’s employment records or other sensitive — but public — information, what would you do?
“When you receive an Open Records Act request like this, just email us, and we’ll walk you through the process,” said Gary Wolovick, a managing attorney in the Office of Legal Affairs. “Sometimes gathering the information can be a pain, but it shouldn’t be a scary process.”
As a state university, Georgia Tech must comply with Georgia’s Open Records Act (ORA), which states that people may request and view most records of state agencies, and obtain copies for a fee.
Here is some information you need to know about these requests.
Q: How many ORA requests does Tech receive monthly?
A: An average of 22. Lawyers often use various public records to build their cases, and reporters use public records to craft their information in articles.
Q: What happens if I don’t respond?
A: Any person who knowingly or willfully fails to respond to a written ORA request may be found guilty of a misdemeanor criminal act and fined up to $1,000 for a first offense.
Q: Does the request have to be in writing?
A: There is no legal requirement that the request be in writing — Tech must respond to all oral requests, too. Faculty or staff members receiving an oral request should make a note of the request and review the note with the requester to ensure the request is clear.
Q: What do I do with the request?
A: First, notify your department head or school chair and then notify Legal Affairs at email@example.com immediately. An attorney will be assigned to assist with preparing a response. The attorney and the unit’s representative will then work together to determine the scope of the request and an appropriate response.
Q: What do I do when I’ve prepared the requested documents?
A: Notify Legal Affairs when the documents are ready.
Q: How long do I have to respond to a request?
A: The ORA requires that any requested public documents be produced within three business days. If some, but not all, of the records can be available within three business days, the portion that can be produced within that time frame should be. An acknowledgement of the request and estimated time for retrieval must be
provided within three days.
Q: How do I determine a fee for a request?
A: Tech is permitted to recover its costs for responding to ORA requests, including the time spent removing confidential information from otherwise public records. Estimate how long it will take you to search for, retrieve, redact, and re-file the records. The first 15 minutes are free. The hourly rate charged may not exceed the rate of the lowest-paid, full-time employee capable of performing the search. If the estimated cost to produce the requested records exceeds $25, the Institute may require an agreement to pay before beginning the process. You will be informed by Legal Affairs when you should begin retrieval, copying, etc.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Workflow Status: Published
- Created By: Amelia Pavlik
- Created: 08/05/2013
- Modified By: Fletcher Moore
- Modified: 10/07/2016