How do I file a Public Records Request?
Anyone 18 or older has the right to examine, copy or obtain a copy of a public record (unless specifically exempted) of any public body including any state, parish or municipal agency or board (including the Legislature). Public records requests may be submitted on the St. Charles Parish Public Records Request page using the Public Records Request Form, by mail, or in person to the Custodian located in the St. Charles Parish Council Office at the address and phone number listed above. Generally anything "having been used, being in use or prepared" for use in the conduct of public business is a public record, regardless of physical form. Public records include such things as drafts of documents, statistics, maps, letters, memos, budget requests, budgets, tapes, electronic data, payrolls, certain retirement information, and tax assessment rolls. Custodians of records are not required to prepare, produce or create new document(s) or list(s) that do not already exist.
Citizens' Rights Under the Public Records Law (R.S. 44:1-41)
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In the case of parish government, the custodian of records is the Parish Council Secretary.
The St. Charles Parish custodian of public records is:
Michelle Impastato, Council Secretary
St. Charles Parish Courthouse / 3rd Floor
15045 River Road
P.O. Box 302
Hahnville, LA 70057
Phone: (985) 783-5000 / Fax: (985) 783-2067
Records ExemptedThe public records law exempts certain records of state and local agencies and cites all exemptions found in other state laws. Federal laws and court rulings provide additional exemptions. In general, exemptions are designed to prevent disclosure of confidential medical and personal information; proprietary and financial data of individuals and businesses (including tax returns and some information regarding occupational licensing); and selected records of financial institutions.
Exemptions in the state public records law include records pertaining to a legislative investigation in progress and certain records of prosecutive, investigative, law enforcement and correctional agencies or public health investigators. Some law enforcement records become public once relevant litigation is settled or a final judgment of conviction is made.
The following information in an initial police report is public record: A narrative description of the alleged offense; its time, date and location; the name and identification of each person charged with the alleged offense or arrested for it; the property or vehicles involved and the names of the investigating officers. Subsequent investigations and reports are not public record.
Other exemptions include nonfinancial records in the governor's custody as well as internal municipal auditors' working papers until the audit is completed. Certain public employee information is exempt including unlisted home phone numbers, home addresses and phone numbers (at employee's request), Social Security numbers, personnel evaluations (by court ruling), and medical, insurance and some retirement records. Attorney and expert work product done in preparation for trial is exempt.
Exercising The Right to See a Public Record
A request for a record should be as specific as possible. A written request can provide documentation for subsequent action if the custodian denies the request. (See sample request letter.)
Official records and files are to be viewed during the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Persons seeking to review any files or records must state the specific documents being requested. St. Charles Parish reserves the right to oversee all reviews of any material, records or files to be viewed. At no time shall any files or records be removed from St. Charles Parish Government Building. In addition, files are not to be copied on external hardware by requestor. No fees may be charged for inspecting records during regular business hours. If fees should apply, the Parish has established a uniform procedure to recover a portion of the expenses incurred in providing documents to the general public. Copies of records may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge to indigent citizens of this state. A requester may be asked to pay in advance if overtime is required to make a public record available (R.S. 44:32.)
Appointments may be required depending on the type of request to allow adequate time to gather these materials
The custodian of a record may ask for identification and proof of age. The custodian is also allowed to ask whether a requester is a convicted felon. (A convicted felon who has exhausted all appeals may only request certain records.) A requester may also be required to sign a register. The custodian must provide "all reasonable comfort and facility" for reviewing the record. A copy must be provided, if requested, although a reasonable fee may be charged. The law directs state agencies to charge 25 cents per page for standard size copies. Other public bodies may charge what they deem to be "reasonable." These charges vary significantly among public bodies. An attorney general opinion has recommended that custodians follow the state agency fee schedule.
If not in "active use" when requested, the record must be "immediately presented." The custodian is required to redact the confidential portion of a record and make the remainder available. If it is unreasonably burdensome or expensive for the custodian to separate the public portion of the record from the confidential portion, the custodian must provide a written statement explaining why. If the record is in "active use," the agency must "promptly certify this in writing" and set a day and an hour within three working days from receipt of the request when the record will be available.
The St. Charles Parish Government shall review all request(s) submitted to Custodian as soon as possible, but no later than three (3) business days after receiving the Public Record Request. The St. Charles Parish Government shall respond to all such request(s) in a manner consistent with Louisiana Revised Status 44:31 & 44:32 respectively.
The response time of the St. Charles Parish Government may be extended beyond the three (3) business day period in the following circumstances:
a. The request requires the review for and or redaction (revision) of a public record,
b. The request requires retrieval of records not stored on site,
c. A legal review is necessary to determine if the record is a public record,
d. The requestor has not complied with the St. Charles Parish Government policies access or
e. The requestor refuses to pay the applicable fees.
f. Complex requests for access to and copies for public records which require extensive research and copying, will be responded to based upon either the number of documents, location of records and/or estimated time for processing the request.
If any of these exceptions apply, St. Charles Parish Government shall respond to the request in writing, within three (3) business days to specify the reason for the delay and provide an expected response date. The response time may be extended at which time this information as well as an explanation will be provided to the requestor.