In honor of Sunshine Week, a nationwide recognition of public records laws, The Northern Light spoke with Sheri Sanchez, Blaine public records officer, about the city’s experience with the state Open Public Records law.
Public records include almost all documents the city produces, including staff emails, contracts with outside vendors and city budget information. In most instances, records detailing city personnel matters, such as personal information or reasons for hiring or firing an individual, are exempt.
Sanchez said the city received 258 formal public records requests in 2011, of which 60 were made to the city clerk and 198 to the Blaine Police Department, which has a separate public records officer. Sanchez said one of the largest requests she filled totaled more than 4,000 pages of documents.
By state law, the city can charge 15 cents per page of copied documents. The city cannot charge if a member of the public wants to visit city hall and inspect documents without copying, Sanchez said. Most documents can also be made available in PDF format.
Formal requests are made by filling out an open public record request form and turning it into the city in person, by mail or email. Sanchez said requestors should be as clear and specific as possible in their requests and should not hesitate to ask for help in filling out the form.
By law, when a request is made to the city, Sanchez has five business days to respond and: make the records available, provide copies if payment has been received, provide an estimate of when documents will be available, ask for clarification or deny the request with reasons for the denial.
For more information on open public record laws, click here. For more information on the city of Blaine's public records procedures, click here.