Last updated August 24, 2005
A. General. The Idaho Public Records Act (IPRA), Idaho Code (IC) 9-337 through 9-349, provides the legal basis for disclosing public records of the University to the public upon request. Internal policy, [ See FSH 6520], Inspection of University Records, further details how the University complies. In addition, when student education records are involved, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), must also be complied with when determining whether a particular record is available to the public.
B. Definitions. Public record includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct or administration of the public's business prepared, owned, used or retained by UI regardless of physical form or characteristics. IC 9-337 (10).
B-1. Custodians. Requests for records should generally be referred to the custodian of the record. If in doubt as to the identity of the custodian, refer the request to the Provost or appropriate Vice President, or to University counsel.
B-2. Public Rights. The public has the right to inspect and copy public records held by the UI.
B-3. Board of Regents. The Regents of the University of Idaho and the staff of the State Board of Education for the purposes of these guidelines, are not members of the public, but should be treated as having legitimate reasons to know information requested. This is true of student education records as well as general public records.
C. Exception. Exempt Records. The IPRA provides for certain exemptions from the general requirement for disclosure to the public for certain records which otherwise fall within the definition of public in that Act.
C-1. A list of the exemptions created by the legislature is found within the IPRA at Idaho Code 9-340. This list includes personnel records, library records which reveal who borrowed certain materials, test questions which will be used again, personal information about employees other than names and addresses such as race, religion, sex, height, weight, etc., medical records, and any record exempt from disclosure by federal or state law. [See FSH 6520]
C-2. Student's education records as defined by FERPA are exempt from public disclosure under FERPA and therefore are exempt from disclosure under the IPRA.
D. Process. Requests to inspect or copy public records should always be referred to the official custodian of the record [See FSH 6520]. The custodian, or designee, determines whether the record is subject to disclosure or exempt from disclosure, and responds to—or denies—the request accordingly.
E. Procedure for Responding to Requests to Inspect or Copy Public Records.
E-1. Forms for Requesting, or Denying, Requests to Inspect or Copy Public Records. Sample forms for requesting records [See 65.03 (G)], or denying requested records have been developed for use by records custodians. A request for inspection and copying of public records does not have to be made by using the suggested forms, however requests which rely on the IPRA must be in writing.
E-2. Refer the Request to the Custodian of the Record. The custodian of the record determines if the record is exempt from disclosure. In general, the custodian of a university record is the provost or vice president of the division where the record originates. In some cases, specific offices originate and administer records and are, therefore, knowledgeable regarding which records are subject to disclosure and which records are exempt from disclosure. Examples of particular records, and the offices knowledgeable regarding disclosure requirements, include:
i) University Budget Records. All official records regarding university budgets are kept in the University's Budget Office and no record should be released without approval of that office.
ii) Computer Programs and Records. Files stored on computers are documents and records available to the public just as if they were paper copies. Computer programs are specifically exempt from public disclosure by the IPRA. While the data may be available, programs developed or purchased for use by the University are not available to the public through the IPRA.
iii) Personnel Records. All requests for personnel information should always be referred to Human Resource Services.
iv) Student Records. All requests for student records should be referred to the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.
E-3. Determine if the Record is Exempt from Disclosure. Amendments are frequently made to the IPRA. Before making a denial of a record, it is always necessary to review university policy [See FSH 6520] and consult with UI legal counsel. Examples of the types of records which are exempt from disclosure include:
i) Real Property and Construction Records. The IPRA provides several specific instances in which real property and construction records, which are otherwise public under the IPRA, are exempt from disclosure, requests to inspect or copy public records should always be referred to the custodian or to counsel.
a) Records relating to the appraisal of real property, timber, or mining rights prior to its acquisition, sale or lease by a public agency. (IC 9340).
b) Records, maps or other records identifying the location of archaeological or geophysical sites or endangered species, if not already known to the general public. (IC 9-340).
c) Archaeological and geologic records concerning exploratory drilling, logging, mining and other excavation, when such records are required to be filed by statute for the time provided by statute. (IC 9-340).
d) Production records, sale or purchase records, catch records, mortgage portfolio loan documents, or similar business records of a private concern or enterprise required by law to be submitted to or inspected by a public agency. (IC 9-340).
e) Any estimate prepared by a public agency that details the cost of a public project until such time as disclosed or bids are opened, or upon award of the contract for construction of the public project. (IC 9-340).
ii) Personnel Records.
a) A personnel record may be disclosed to the public if the employee has given written permission for the University to disclose the information or record. If no written permission has been granted, only the following information about an employee or former employee may be released to the public upon request:
- Service or employment history
- Pay grade and step
- Gross salary and salary history
- Employment status
- Workplace and Employing agency
b) Employee Access to Personnel Records. An employee may inspect and copy his or her own personnel records -- except material used to screen and test for employment. This excepted material includes applications for employment, recommendations supporting applications for employment, notes of interviewers, and tests given to test competency for a given position. The results of tests (scores) are available to the employee.
c) Employee Information Prohibited from Disclosure. Information about an employee which the IPRA expressly prohibits an agency from releasing without the permission of the employee include: sex, race, marital status, birth date, address and telephone number, applications, testing and scoring materials, grievances, correspondence, and performance evaluations. (IC 9-340). In addition, employment security and unemployment insurance benefit information is exempt unless all interested parties agree to disclosure.
d) Student Status Information and FERPA. When the employee whose records are sought is also a student, the requirements of FERPA become important and override the IPRA. Care should be taken to check if the information is also an education record subject to the more stringent guidelines of FERPA. In general, the records of a student who is a work-study employee, are protected by FERPA. Personnel records of students which are not related to the status of that employee as a student are protected by the IPRA.
e) Retired Employees Information. Disclosure of the retiree’s home address and home telephone number is permitted with—and only with--written permission of the retiree.
f) Idaho Human Rights Commission Complaints. The IPRA specifically exempts from disclosure investigative reports resulting from investigations conducted as a result of complaints to the Idaho Human Rights Commission. (IC 9-340).
g) Records Prepared in Anticipation of Litigation. In general, records prepared in anticipation of litigation, if prepared at the direction of an attorney are exempt from formal discovery in the litigation process and also from disclosure to the public. (IC 9-340).
h) Academic Records. Records held by members of the faculty may be public records. There are two notable exceptions:
(1) Student education records are exempt from disclosure under FERPA and include grades, evaluative materials, student papers, and personally identifying materials, for example, ID numbers, home address, telephone number, etc.
(2) Test scores, scoring keys, and other data used to administer an examination before the exam is given and if the exam is to be used again. (IC 9-340).
i) Research Records. In 1993 the legislature added a specific exemption covering certain research records. The research must be unpublished or in progress and contain trade secrets as defined in the IPRA. (IC 9-340). In addition, where the research is sponsored by another agency or private company, and is considered the property of that agency or company, it is not a public record owned by the University.
j) Library Records. The IPRA contains specific exemptions from disclosure for certain library records. Thus, records of a library that would reveal the identity of the library patron checking out, requesting, or using an item from a library are exempt from disclosure. (IC 9-340).
(1) Private Donations to a Library, Etc. A donor of material to a library, archive or museum, may limit the public accessibility to that material in making the original gift. Thus if a private person states that the material is not public, the IPRA protects it from disclosure. (IC 9-340). The practical application of this section may arise from gifts of personal papers which a donor might restrict to making publicly available only after the donor's death, or the death of all persons named in the papers.
k) Medical and Counseling Records. The IPRA specifically exempts from disclosure records of hospital care, medical records, records of psychiatric care or treatment and professional counseling records relating to an individual's condition, diagnosis, care or treatment.
E-4. Time Limit for Responding to Public Records Requests. UI is required to respond to requests submitted under the IPRA within 3 days of the request or notify the requesting party that more time to comply is needed. In any event, the IPRA requires compliance within 10 days of the request.
E-5. Copy Charges Allowable. UI may charge the requesting party for the actual cost of reproducing copies of records. [See FSH 6520].
E-6. Compilation of Data to Create a Record is Not Required. The IPRA pertains to existing records. The Act does not require that the University create compilations of data in response to a request for public records.
E-7. Ensure Exempt Information is Not Released with Public Records. When information which is disclosable is mixed with information which is exempt from disclosure, the University has an obligation to redact (black out) the exempt information and provide the record. While the University has no obligation to create a record to respond to a request for public records, there will be times when the creation of a record containing only disclosable information may be more expedient and overall the better way to provide that information.
E-8. Denials of Requests to Inspect or Copy Public Records Must be in Writing. If a request to inspect and copy a public record is denied, or partially denied, the University, through the custodian of the record, must make the denial in writing and inform the requesting party of his or her right to appeal the decision to the Latah County district court. The basis for the denial and whether or not legal counsel has been consulted must also be specified in the notice. In addition, the IPRA requires that the University retain the record which has been denied for a period of 180 days from the date of denial. This is the time period which the requesting party has to appeal the decision to the courts.
E-9. Denials Must be in Good Faith. A denial of a public record which is made without justification can be reversed by a court. If the court finds the denial was frivolous, the University could be required to pay the attorneys fees and costs incurred by the requesting party in pursuing disclosure of the records. In addition, if the University employee who made the decision to refuse to disclose public records is found to have done so deliberately and in bad faith, the employee could be fined up to $1,000.
F. Information. Additional information regarding responding to public records requests may be obtained from the custodian of the record or from the Office of University Counsel (208) 885-6125.