Local Agencies May Submit Claims for State Reimbursement of Public Records Act Costs

by Best Best & Krieger LLP

Claims Must Be Filed No Later Than February 28, 2014

The Office of the State Controller (SCO) has released instructions for local agencies to submit claims for state reimbursement of costs incurred between fiscal years 2001-02 and 2012-13 to comply with the Public Records Act (codified as Government Code Section 6250 et seq.). “Local agencies” include any city, county, city and county, special district or school district that receives property taxes. Claims must be filed with the SCO no later than February 28, 2014. Any claims filed between March 1, 2014 and February 28, 2015 will be assessed a late penalty of 10 percent. No claims will be accepted after February 28, 2015.

On May 26, 2011, the Commission on State Mandates (CSM) adopted a statement of decision finding that certain activities required under the PRA imposed a reimbursable state-mandated program on local agencies and school districts. Claims may be filed for any eligible costs incurred between fiscal years 2001-02 and 2012-13. A separate claim must be filed for each fiscal year and each claim must be for more than $1,000.

The CSM has approved the following on-going reimbursable activities:

  • Provide a copy of a record in electronic format if the requested format is one that is used by the public agency.
  • Provide notice to a person making a request of the public agency’s determination regarding whether the records are disclosable within 10 days of receipt of the request.
  • If the 10 day limit set forth above is extended due to “unusual circumstances,” provide written notice to the requesting party setting forth the reason for the extension and the date on which a determination as to which records are disclosable is expected.
  • If the records request is denied, in whole or in part, respond in writing to the request with a determination that the request is denied.
  • When a member of the public requests to inspect a record or obtain a copy:
    • Assist the person to identify records and information that are responsive to the request or to the purpose of the request;
    • Describe the information technology and physical location in which the records exist; and
    • Provide suggestions for overcoming any basis for denying access to the desired records.

For school districts and county offices of education, the following are also reimbursable activities:

  • Redact or withhold home address and telephone numbers of employees; provided, however, that this is not a reimbursable activity when the information is requested by a family member, an employee of another school district in the performance of official duties, an employee organization pursuant to regulations and decisions of the Public Employment Relations Board, or an agent or employee of a health benefit plan providing health services to employees.
  • Remove the home address and telephone number of an employee from mailing lists that the school district or county office of education are legally required to maintain.

In addition to the on-going reimbursable activities listed above, the following one-time activities are also reimbursable:

  • Develop policies, protocols, manuals, and procedures to implement the reimbursable PRA provisions.
  • One-time training of each employee assigned the duties of implementing the reimbursable PRA provisions.

Activities eligible for reimbursement are further defined in the SCO’s instructions and the CSM’s parameters and guidelines.

Eligible costs include, but are not limited to: salaries and benefits, materials and supplies, contracted services, fixed assets (such as computers), travel, training, and a percentage of certain indirect costs such as overhead costs. Any eligible costs must be offset by revenue received by the public agency for that activity, such as copying charges paid by the requestor.

All claims must be submitted on an original Form FAM-27, signed in blue ink, along with one copy of the required documents. Form FAM-27 is available as part of the SCO’s claiming instructions.

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