California Public Records Act – General Rules and Exceptions
By Nathan Hyde, Civitas
Have you received a Public Records Act request and had no clue on how to respond?
This article briefly explains the law and how it applies to PBID, TBID and BID Owners’ Associations.
Summary – The California Public Records Act (PRA) is specifically applicable to government entities—counties, cities, commissions and other local governmental agencies. However, Owners’ Associations of assessment districts formed pursuant to the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 and some districts formed under the Parking and Business Improvement Area Law of 1989 are also required to comply with the PRA. The overarching goal of the PRA is to ensure that records are disclosed to the public.
Procedure – If an email is sent to the Owners’ Association from John Doe asking for “records relating to contracts paid for with district funds,” the Owners’ Association has ten (10) days to respond to request. If more time is needed the Owners’ Association may extend the initial determination period by an addition fourteen (14) days, under certain limited circumstances. The Owner’s Association will need to determine if the corporation possesses documents that match the description and whether any of those documents qualify under the exemptions to the PRA. John Doe should be notified before the initial ten (10) days have lapsed that the request was received, if any records are available, or if additional time is needed. When the requested records have been located, John Doe must be notified that they are available.
Risk of Litigation – Failing to produce requested records may result in a legal challenge. If a plaintiff wins the suit, the plaintiff can be awarded attorney’s fees. In addition, the district may suffer negative exposure in the media.
Accurately responding to PRA requests in a timely manner is imperative to prevent negative exposure and potential legal challenges. We encourage Owners’ Associations to develop and adhere to a Records Retention Policy and a Public Records Act Response Policy to ensure compliance and simplify responding to PRA requests.
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