Public Record Requests
Public Records Act
As a state agency our records and production thereof are not governed by the Freedom of Information Act. However, Louisiana law requires us to make available records for your examination and provide copies as requested. The procedure under the Public Records Act for reviewing the files of the Department is to contact the Department in writing or by telephone to set up a convenient time to look at the files.
Availability of Records
Records will be made available promptly to anyone 18 years of age or older during business hours. LA R.S. 44:33 allows the Department to withhold production of records for a maximum of three days only if they are in use by the agency. If this is the case, the custodian must certify the unavailability and set a time in the certification within 3 days, exclusive of holidays and weekends, for the requester to view the record.
Written Requests for Records
The Public Records law says that we must make records available for review and produce copies as requested. We are under no obligation to mail copies upon written request, particularly if the request is vague, broad or onerous. In such a case, the requester may come in and choose the record he wants and it will be promptly copied. If he is unable to come in, then files may be scanned in their entirety and emailed to the requestor. Production of records is governed by the state public records law, not by the Freedom of Information Act, so anyone citing this as a basis for copies will be informed that it is not applicable to a state agency.
LA R.S. 44.3.2 requires persons seeking confidentiality for otherwise public records to request confidentiality in writing. Any such request must include solid reasons for granting confidentiality; a simple request will not suffice. This same statute requires the director to make a determination in writing. Absent a request with substantial reasons and a written determination by the secretary, there is no confidential privilege for a public record. Confidentiality may only be granted if the necessary to (a) prevent impairment on an ongoing investigation or prejudice to the final decision regarding a violation; or (b) protect trade secrets, proprietary information, and commercial or financial information. Pending a determination of confidentiality, documents will be kept confidential. Once the documents have been declared confidential in writing by the director, they are segregated from the public records and kept in a secure place. However, duly authorized officers of employees of state or federal government may review these documents if needed for carrying out their duties.
This is a public record. Obviously, if the requestor is asking for certain fields of information which are not part of your program, then there is no obligation to produce this information. However, anything that is retrievable is public record unless it is still in the draft stage in which case it would be treated as a draft document. We do not have the personnel to handle frequent or onerous requests for computer data. However, if this can be done, will be cost based on the number of discs required to reproduce the requested information, and the time of the person charged with the task.
Preservation of Records
Anyone having care or custody of public records must exercise due diligence in maintaining these records for a period of at least three years. This includes any documents submitted to the department, even if a determination is made that the document is deficient. In such an instance the deficient document can be supplemented or replaced with a corrected document, but the deficient document, once submitted, is a public record that must be maintained for three years.