Call it what you want, but it’s a public record!

Nothing gets my geeky public records heart racing like being denied a public document. As you can tell from my previous blogpost, I can get fired up on ocassion 🙂

One of the most annoying things about being denied a document is hearing the all-too-common excuse: “I can’t release that document to you. It’s still a draft and hasn’t been finalized.” If you are ever fed this pathetic line, spit it out. When I hear that excuse, I just want to scream, “Call it what you want, but it’s a public record!”

Of course, I don’t scream at people. I just take a deep breath and calmly explain that a document becomes a public record WHEN IT IS CREATED, regardless of its status.

The Albert Lea Tribune, which has been covering southern Minnesota and northern Iowa since 1897, knows exactly what I’m talking about. The newspaper published a beautifully written editorial on Wednesday called “City Falters on Public Document.”

I’ll let you read the editorial to get the whole picture. But basically, city hall officials “were slow” to give the newspaper a copy of a tentative agreement it had reached with a police officers union. The human resources director called the document a “proposal.” Ding, ding, ding! There’s your magic word. Reporters fall for this all the time, but the Albert Lea Tribune, thankfully, did not. In the end, they got the public record.

I’ll end this blogpost with the last line of the editorial, which is priceless:

“A good city government is open. A good city government embraces its people. A good city government errs on the side of accessibility. It welcomes feedback and finds ways to invite greater participation in city decision-making.”


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