December 3, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Daniel Bevarly
(352) 294-7082 · firstname.lastname@example.org
NFOIC White Paper: “Beast or Burden: Nuisance, vexatious, or burdensome public records requests"
A growing concern among news organizations and open government advocates is the labeling of a certain type of public records request as vexatious, unduly burdensome, nuisance, voluminous, or just annoying. Both government and journalists use these terms to apply to two forms of records request.
The first is a request that is “unduly burdensome” because the request is vague or asks for an unreasonable amount of records. The second category is unduly burdensome because the individual or organization makes a request too frequently or is doing so to harass the agency.
Both forms are being cited by state and local governments for denying public record petitions. It is concerning because as technology advances, more public records are being generated mainly in digital format creating new challenges for public institutions to collect, organize, manage and report them.
Another concern involves cases where governments that poorly administer their public records will use the form of denial if they believe a request will create a hardship on the agency to provide them. Claims of burdensome requests may also be used by a public agency to skirt their jurisdiction’s open government laws.
NFOIC has created a primer that explores this concern as more state and local governments begin to adopt laws, ordinances and policies that set a bar by determining criteria for these forms of public record requests.