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Requests for Records

Reference Number: MTAS-446
Reviewed Date: 09/14/2022

While a requestor seeking to view or inspect records generally cannot be required to make the request in writing, it is important for the PRRC to keep written documentation of all such requests made and all responsive records provided. T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)(i). The PRRC is encouraged to complete a records request form for each request to inspect received. A municipality is required to accept requests for inspection by telephone, fax, mail, in person, via email, if email is used by a municipality to conduct business, or through an Internet portal, if a municipality maintains an Internet portal that is used to make a public records request.

A municipality may require a request for copies to be made in writing and on a specific form. If a municipality requires a specific form to be used, the form is required to be provided to the requestor as quickly as possible after being requested. T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)(v). A recommended best practice is to have the records request form, whether required or not, available on the municipality’s website. A sample records request form is included as Appendix B. Requests for copies that are required to be made in writing must be accepted in person, via mail, via email, if email is used by a municipality to conduct business, or through an Internet portal, if a municipality maintains an Internet portal that is used to make a public records request. If a request for copies is not required to be made in writing, the request may be submitted in any of the ways permitted for a request to inspect. T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(7)(A)(ii-iv).

Once a PRRC receives a request for inspection or copies, access to the requested records is required to be provided as “promptly” as possible. If the requested records cannot be promptly made available, the PRRC has seven (7) business days to do one of the following:

  • Provide the requested records;
  • Provide the requestor a written denial of the requested record that includes the legal basis for the denial; or
  • Provide the requestor a completed records request response form that includes the time needed to produce the requested records.[1]

 T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(2)(B).

Municipalities are required to make every reasonable effort to produce requested records as quickly as possible. Requests for voluminous or archival records will understandably require additional time. Additionally, factors such as the kind, amount, and nature of the records requested; uncertainty as to what records are requested; the location of the records requested; the format in which the records are requested; the extent of the department head’s resources to locate the records at the time the request is made; intervening emergencies, problems, and other events might reasonably delay the production of requested records. However, regardless of the circumstances, records are required to be produced without unnecessary delay. In the event a municipality receives a voluminous request or a request that requires extensive review and redaction, a recommended best practice is to provide the requested records as quickly as possible, incrementally. By providing the records incrementally, as opposed to waiting an extended amount of time to provide all of the requested records at once, a municipality is able to demonstrate a good faith effort towards complying with a request.

When circumstances prevent the use of municipal copying equipment, commercial copying services may be used. In this situation, the PRRC should receive an estimate from the commercial copying service that will be used. The estimate should then be forwarded to the requestor along with an explanation of the need to use the commercial service and a timeframe for completion. Finally, the PRRC should secure an agreement to pay the estimate from the requestor before any copies are made. As with all copying, strict precautions must be taken to ensure the integrity of the records. When possible, the PRRC should oversee the commercial copying process. However, if that is not possible, a detailed inventory of the original records should be taken before they are delivered to the commercial entity, and then inventoried again upon return.

[1] T.C.A. § 10-7-503(a)(2)(B)(iii) requires a municipality to use the records request response form developed by the OORC when it is going to take beyond seven business days to make the requested records available. This form is available as Appendix C.