A Look at State Records Audits

Article excerpt

Since the late 1990s, news organizations and advocacy groups have put their state public records laws to the test.

Each study sought different records from a variety of agencies, but most found that government agencies failed to comply with requests for even the most basic records. Law enforcement often put up the biggest barrier to records access.

Arizona,2002 Open & Shut

Auditors checked for records at schools, jails, law enforcement offices and planning offices. Police refused requests nearly half the time.

Arkansas, 1999 Unlocking the Public's Business

Participants found that compliance with records requests ranged from 50 percent at health offices to 86 percent at city offices.

California, 2002 For the Record ..

Out of 46 requests to schools and city and county agencies, 19 government agencies complied with requests.

California, 2002 Public Records Denied

Reporters surveyed 25 agencies in five counties. They found that 53 percent of the agencies complied.

Colorado, 2000 Your Right to Know

In all 63 counties auditors found that local government agencies failed to comply with state public records law a third of the time.

Connecticut, 1999 Access to Public Records Survey

Results revealed a 22 percent compliance rate.

Georgia, 1999 Georgia's Right to Know

Auditors found that 44 percent of law enforcement offices and schools complied, while cities, counties and universities complied 90 percent of the time.

Illinois, 1999 Your Records, Their Rules

Audit results show that records were denied one out of four times. Arrest records were most often denied.

Indiana, 1997 Open Records, Closed Doors

Reporters tested compliance in all 92 counties. Sixty-six sheriffs refused to release crime reports.

Iowa, 2000 Open Records Survey

Reporters sought meeting minutes and police logs. Most agencies complied. The study also found excessive copying fees.

Kansas, 1999 Kansas Public Access Project

The survey showed requests were granted 84 percent of the time. In most cases, sheriffs offices refused to provide requested records.

Maryland, 2000 Access Maryland

Auditors obtained records such as school superintendent contracts, sheriffs' expenses and nursing home inspections one out of four times.

Massachusetts, 2001 Access Denied

Reporters were denied access to records three times out of four in 37 cities checked.

Minnesota, 2000 Freedom of Information Audit

Jail records, superintendent records and city council minutes were sought from agencies. Auditors succeeded 70 percent of the time.

Mississippi, 2000 Mississippi Access

Fewer than half the 38 sheriffs complied with requests for jail dockets and arrest records. …