Kramer: Anyone can ask for public records |

Kramer: Anyone can ask for public records

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Happy Sunshine Week! (March 12-18) Each year, media organizations across the country highlight the importance of accessing government public records and shining the light on records which are stored away in government file cabinets (or computers).  

Public records are the meat and potatoes of a reporter’s data collection. Their first step usually is to collect the records for a story. The last thing is to interview the folks in the story.   

But citizens can also take advantage of this law. The federal law is called the Freedom of Information Act, but each state has their own name. In Florida, where I’m from, it is called the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law. Although the law varies from state to state, the gist of it is simple.  

Don’t ask your government official for his opinion or try to get them to answer questions. They are not required to answer you. If you want to be effective, ask for records! It’s as simple as this. E-mail them and say: This is a request for public records. Please provide a copy of (whatever you’d like to know).

And then wait to see what the official says. Sometimes a government agency is lightning fast and will give you the records within the hour. Some are not as efficient and might take a day or two.  

If you have any doubt of whether something is a “public record” or not, don’t worry about it. Just ask for it. It is the agency’s responsibility to either provide the record or state the statutory reasons why they won’t provide them.

We know public records. As private investigators (my better half and I), we’ve been requesting records from tiny towns to state government to the feds for decades. Note: Be prepared to wait from the U.S. government! They are S-L-O-W.   

Ken Kramer

Tampa Bay, Florida