The Vermont Statutes Online

Title 1: General Provisions

Chapter 5: COMMON LAW; GENERAL RIGHTS

Sub-Chapter 3: Access To Public Records

1 V.S.A. § 318. Procedure



§ 318. Procedure

(a) Upon request, the custodian of a public record shall promptly produce the record for inspection, except that:

(1) If the record is in active use or in storage and therefore not available for use at the time the person asks to examine it, the custodian shall so certify this fact in writing to the applicant and set a date and hour within one calendar week of the request when the record will be available for examination.

(2) If the custodian considers the record to be exempt from inspection under the provisions of this subchapter, the custodian shall so certify in writing. Such certification shall identify the records withheld and the basis for the denial. A record shall be produced for inspection or a certification shall be made that a record is exempt within three business days of receipt of the request, unless otherwise provided in subdivision (5) of this subsection. The certification shall include the asserted statutory basis for denial and a brief statement of the reasons and supporting facts for denial. The custodian shall also notify the person of his or her right to appeal to the head of the agency any adverse determination.

(3) If appealed to the head of the agency, the head of the agency shall make a determination with respect to any appeal within five business days after the receipt of such appeal. If an appeal of the denial of the request for records is in whole or in part upheld, the agency shall notify the person making such request of the provisions for judicial review of that determination under section 319 of this title.

(4) If a record does not exist, the custodian shall certify in writing that the record does not exist under the name given to the custodian by the applicant or by any other name known to the custodian.

(5) In unusual circumstances as herein specified the time limits prescribed in this subsection may be extended by written notice to the person making such request setting forth the reasons for such extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No such notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than ten business days from receipt of the request. As used in this subdivision, "unusual circumstances" means to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:

(A) the need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;

(B) the need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records which are demanded in a single request; or

(C) the need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein, or with the Attorney General.

(b) Any person making a request to any agency for records under subsection (a) of this section shall be deemed to have exhausted the person's administrative remedies with respect to each request if the agency fails to comply within the applicable time limit provisions of this section. Upon any determination by an agency to comply with a request for records, the records shall be made available promptly to the person making such request. Any notification of denial of any request for records under this section shall set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial of such request.

(c)(1) Any denial of access by the custodian of a public record may be appealed to the head of the agency. The head of the agency shall make a written determination on an appeal within five business days after the receipt of the appeal. A written determination shall include the asserted statutory basis for denial and a brief statement of the reasons and supporting facts for denial.

(2) If the head of the agency reverses the denial of a request for records, the records shall be promptly made available to the person making the request. A failure by the agency to comply with any of the time limit provisions of this section shall be deemed a final denial of the request for records by the agency.

(d) In responding to a request to inspect or copy a record under this subchapter, a public agency shall consult with the person making the request in order to clarify the request or to obtain additional information that will assist the public agency in responding to the request and, when authorized by this subchapter, in facilitating production of the requested record for inspection or copying. In unusual circumstances, as that term is defined in subdivision (a)(5) of this section, a public agency may request that a person seeking a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records narrow the scope of a public records request.

(e) A public agency shall not withhold any record in its entirety on the basis that it contains some exempt content if the record is otherwise subject to disclosure; instead, the public agency shall redact the information it considers to be exempt and produce the record accompanied by an explanation of the basis for denial of the redacted information.

(f) If a person making the request has a disability which requires accommodation to gain equal access to the public record sought, the person shall notify the public agency of the type of accommodation requested. The public agency shall give primary consideration to the accommodation choice expressed by the requestor, but may propose an alternative accommodation so long as it achieves equal access. The public agency shall provide accommodation to the person making the request unless the agency can demonstrate that accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its service, programs, activities, or in undue financial and administrative burden.

(g) The Secretary of State shall provide municipal public agencies and members of the public information and advice regarding the requirements of the Public Records Act and may utilize informational websites, toll-free telephone numbers, or other methods to provide such information and advice. (Added 1975, No. 231 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2005, No. 132 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 2007, No. 110 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2011, No. 59, § 4.)