City of Dickinson, 041119 NDAGO, AGO 2019-O-6

Docket Nº:AGO 2019-O-6
Case Date:April 11, 2019
Court:North Dakota
City of Dickinson
AGO 2019-O-6
No. 2019-O-06
North Dakota Attorney General Opinion
April 11, 2019
         ISSUED TO: City of Dickinson           OPEN RECORDS AND MEETINGS OPINION          CITIZEN’S REQUEST FOR OPINION          This office received a request for an opinion under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-21.1 from Nick Thornton asking whether the City of Dickinson violated N.D.C.C. § 44-04-18 by failing to respond to a records request within a reasonable time.          FACTS PRESENTED          On September 20, 2018, Mr. Thornton sent a records request for the personnel file of a police officer to the Dickinson Police Department’s Records Supervisor.[1] The request was forwarded to the City of Dickinson’s Human Resources (HR) Department Coordinator, who began scanning some of the records responsive to the request that same day.[2] The HR Coordinator did not work on the request again until September 28, 2018.[3] During the intervening time, the HR Coordinator had other workload and responsibilities, and was out of the office at a conference for a few days. There was no communication with the requestor until September 28, 2018, and then only after the requestor asked for a status update.[4] The HR Coordinator asked for help from her assistant on October 1, 2018.[5] The HR Department finished scanning, reviewing and redacting the records on October 3, 2018.[6] The records were then forwarded to the City Attorney who provided a cost estimate to the requestor on October 5, 2018, and thereafter spent over seventeen hours the next two weeks reviewing the redactions made by HR staff.[7] The City Attorney provided status updates to the requestor during this time.[8] The City ultimately provided 163 pages of records and 80 minutes of video recording to Mr. Thornton between October 9 and October 18, 2018.[9]          ISSUE          Whether the City of Dickinson responded to a request for records within a reasonable time.          ANALYSIS          “Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, all records of a public entity are public records, open and accessible for inspection during reasonable office hours.”[10] When a public entity receives a request for records, it must, within a reasonable time, either provide the records or explain why the...

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