Indiana UniversityOffice of the vice president and general counsel
Indiana Access to Public Records Act (APRA) Training
Fundamental Purpose of APRA
“…itis the public policy of the state that all persons are entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees.”-IC 5-14-3-1
Scope of APRA
APRA gives any person the right to inspect and copy IU’s public records (IC 5-14-3-3).“Public record” is defined as any writing, paper, report, study, map, photograph, book, card, tape recording, or other material that is created, received, retained, maintained, or filed by or with a public agency.”NOTE: E-mails that are sent or received on an IU server (including those forwarded to an IU account from another account) or printed and stored physically at IU, irrespective of subject matter, are subject to APRA.
Process for Handling APRA Requests
Responses are handled by the Office of the Vice President & General CounselWritten request?Must respond within 7 calendar days of receipt. APRA requires only a response and not the actual production of records within this specified time period.Request in person?Must respond to request within 24 hours. Again,APRA requires only a response and not the actual production of records within this specified time period.Requests must identify the record being requested with reasonable particularity.For example, a request for “all documents regarding the Indiana Memorial Union” is not reasonably particular. IU may ask the requesting party to narrow the request by specifying the subject matter and, if relevant, dates so as to identify what is sought.Note: IUmay notask the requesting party to indicate his/her purpose for the records.However, if the record being requested is a list of names and addresses, the requesting party may not use such a record for commercial or political use. IU has the requestor sign an Affidavit of Noncommercial and Nonpolitical Use in such cases.
Key Exceptions to APRA:What does not have to be produced?
Deliberative or advisory materials used for decision-making purposesPersonnel FilesExcept for:Name, compensation, job title, job description, education & training background, work experience, and dates of first & last employmentInfo relating to status of formal charges against employeeThe factual basis for a disciplinary action in which final action has been taken and that resulted in the employee being suspended, demoted or terminatedMaterial required to be kept confidential by state statute or federal lawFERPARecords containing trade secretsGrade transcripts and license examination scoresInvestigatory records of a police agencyRecords concerning researchRecords that are attorney-client privilegedOther exceptions can be found in IC 5-14-3-4
Denying a Request
If denying a request or certain records under a request, state the reason for the denial and cite to the relevant statutory authority.Sometimes requests will contain bothdisclosableandnondisclosableinformation.The information that isdisclosablemust be separated and made available for inspection and copying.IU will bear the burden of proving that the records are excepted from disclosure under APRA or any other applicable authority.
Process for Enforcement
APRA is enforced through the Indiana Public Access Counselor (PAC). IU must cooperate with the PAC in any investigation or proceeding.PAC Authority:AdviseRespond to informal inquiriesIssue advisory opinionsMake recommendations to General Assembly on ways to improve accessEducateTrain public officials & educate members of the publicConduct research
Consequences of Inappropriate Denials
A requesting party who feels that IU was wrong in denying his/her request may file a lawsuit to compel IU to permit inspection and copying.Attorneys fees, court costs, and reasonable expenses of litigation may be awarded to the prevailing party.But the plaintiff must first seek and receive PAC advisory opinion or informal inquiry response.
APRA Requests Comparedto Litigation Discovery
Generally, only records that are protected by attorney-client privilege are exempt from production in litigation discovery.This means thatalmost anydocument or material, so long as it is not privileged and is relevant to the subject matter involved, could be discoverable, even documents that could be withheld under APRA.The broad scope of discovery can include records stored on personal or work computers, messages from both personal and work-related email accounts, and text messages or voicemails on personal or work phones.Whenyou discuss sensitive information in electronic communications, you should be aware of the circumstances in which your communications might be subject to open records requests and/or discovery in litigation, even when the communications are sent from personal electronic devices or personal email accounts.
Do you have any questions?If you receive an inquiry from someone whois interested in submittingan open records request, you can direct the requester to the form on the OVPGC website.