Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a public record? 

A public record may be any document or record, written or electronic, that is used, retained, or maintained by the University in the course of business. Upon request, the University must disclose public records unless a specific exemption from disclosure applies.

What is the Public Records Office (PRO)?

The Public Records Office (PRO) is responsible for coordinating the University's responses to public requests for records made under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and the Information Practices Act of 1977 (IPA). The PRO is not the official office of record, but an office set up to collect, review, and release documents that are responsive to public records requests.

Who can file a request under the CPRA and the IPA?

Anyone can request documents under the CPRA. Requests may even be made anonymously. However, a requester must provide some form of contact information in order for us to process the request. A request should reasonably describe an identifiable record or records.

Requests made under the IPA may generally only relate to records pertaining to the requester. As these records are not typically public, proof of identification may be required prior to a release. See also, "How to Make a Public Records Request".

What are the differences between the CPRA and the IPA?

Under the CPRA, all records maintained by the University are potentially subject to disclosure unless they fall into an authorized exception. Any member of the public can make a request for records under the CPRA.

Under the IPA, the public has very limited rights to personal information about an individual. Personal information is defined as any information maintained by the University that identifies or describes an individual. Most personal information is considered confidential and not disclosable to the public. However, individuals have the right to access personal information about themselves held by the University with few exceptions. Proof of identification may be required when releasing records made under an IPA request.

What should a University department do when it receives a public records request?

University departments should immediately forward or direct all public records requests to the PRO at pra@uci.edu. See also, "How to Respond to a Public Records Request".

How long does it take to process a request for records?

Response times vary from case to case. When making a request for public records, please be aware that the PRO is not the official office of record, but an office set up to collect, review, and release documents that are responsive to public records requests. Accordingly, there are multiple processes involved in producing responsive documents. In rare cases, documents may be made available in as short as 48 hours or as long as several months. The length of time it takes to process a request depends on the types and volume of documents being requested and our current workload.

In calendar year 2011, we processed over 249 public records requests, which resulted in the collection of approximately 49,300 pages of documents.

What does it cost to make a request?

We typically provide requested documents in electronic form and there is no charge for this.  If, on the other hand, you are requesting a photocopy of records, you may be charged 10 cents per page for the duplication of documents (California Government Code, Section 6253(b)).  In the event that data must be queried, you may be charged with the associated programming and production costs (California Government Code, Section 6253.9(b)).

Requesters will be notified of any associated costs prior to the release of documents.

How are records released?

The PRO typically releases responsive documents electronically via an email link to an encrypted server.  The PRO is not the official office of record, but an office set up to collect, review, and release documents that are responsive to records requests.  Therefore, it is not feasible for an in-person inspection of documents because original records are not kept in our office and must be collected and reviewed for exemptions before they can be released.  Releasing documents electronically is the easiest way for requesters to receive documents.

Can a University employee make a request for his or her own personnel file?

Yes. University employees may access copies of their own personnel records. A requester has the option to execute the records request through the University's Human Resources Department, individual department, or via the PRO.

What records are exempt from disclosure?

When a document is identified as potentially responsive to a public records request, but it contains personal or other exempt information as protected under the law, it will be redacted prior to release. Exemptions from disclosure generally include: personnel, medical, or similar records, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; records related to pending litigation; investigative records; preliminary drafts that are not typically retained; attorney-client privileged records; trade secrets; records that would harm the public interest if released; and other material made confidential by state and federal statutes.

Statutory exemptions from disclosure are found in the CPRA and the IPA.

What is redaction?

Redaction is the process of removing, covering, or deleting exempt information from documents that are otherwise identified as responsive to requests. It is part of the PRO's responsibility to redact exempt information from records before they are released.

Should a University department redact responsive documents before giving them to the PRO?

No. University departments should produce documents to the PRO in their entirety. The PRO will make any necessary redactions.

Are University employee salaries exempt from release?

No. University employee salaries are considered public records and are releasable upon request.

Is the University required to create records that do not exist in order to comply with a public request?

No. In response to a public request, we are only responsible for providing existing documents and records that are maintained by the University.

Should University departments utilize the PRO in order to collect documents housed in other departments?

No. University departments and offices should not use the PRO as a method to obtain internal documents in the course of their work.

Do requests for records issued in subpoenas go to the PRO?

No. All subpoenas served on the University should be forwarded to the Office of Materiel and Risk Management.