In his first state of the state address, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared, “Our government needs to operate at the speed of business.” Two years ago, his office highlighted the progress of government agencies “working more productively, more efficiently, and doing so at a lesser cost to taxpayers.”
But Ducey’s office hasn’t adopted the brisk speed and efficiency of the private sector when responding to requests for public documents, as required by Arizona law.
Of the 76 public records requests processed by the governor’s office in 2017, the average wait time was 3.6 months, according to a Phoenix New Times analysis of a log of records requests. The median wait time was 72 days. A handful of requests lingered in the governor’s office for around a year before the records were finally turned over to the person who asked for them.
Dan Barr, a local attorney who represents the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, called the monthslong delays from Ducey’s office for public records “ridiculous.”
“Clearly, they’re daring news organizations to sue them because public records law requires that public bodies respond promptly to a public records request,” Barr said.
Indeed, under Arizona law, the custodian of records at any public body must provide copies “promptly” upon request. But unlike some other states, public records law in Arizona does not lay out a specific time framefor when an agency must provide a response.
Public records provide a window into the workings of federal, state, and local government. Details contained in records, obtained by journalists through public records requests, are often essential to groundbreaking investigative reporting. (Read more…)