How to Request the County's Public Records
Policy Regarding Access to Public Records
The California Public Records Act declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in the state because it gives the public an opportunity to monitor the functioning of their government. It is the county's goal to provide the public with timely access to its public records.
What Is a Public Record?
The California Government Code defines public records as, "…any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristic." For example, public records can include, but are not limited to, papers, books, maps, charts, photographs, audiotapes, videotapes, and information stored on a computer.
What are the County's Public Records?
The Public Records Act applies to the records of the county and all agencies, boards, and commissions created by the county's Board of Supervisors.
Who Can Request Public Records?
Anyone may make a request to inspect or obtain a copy of a public record. A requester is not required to provide any personal identification or reason for the request.
What Can Be Requested
Generally, all county records are available to the public unless there is a statute that exempts them from disclosure. California Government Code section 6254 provides a partial list of records that may be exempt from disclosure. Some of the types of records that are potentially exempt include:
- Personnel records, medical records and similar files which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if publicly disclosed;
- Records pertaining to pending litigation to which a public agency is a party;
- Preliminary drafts, notes and memorandum;
- Records of complaints to or investigations conducted by a police agency;
- Records covered by the attorney-client privilege;
- Examination data used to administer a licensing, employment or academic examination; and
- Criminal history information.
Where to Find or Request County Records
You can find frequently requested County records here at the County's website in the online Document Center. You may also use the search box in the upper right hand corner of every county web page.
You also may request records directly from the County department that has the records you are seeking. If you are not sure which department has the records you are seeking, you can use the following resources to help identify the correct department:
- Links to County Department Websites: This section of the website contains an alphabetical listing of departments with links to their specific web pages, and contact information for each department's main office. The records you are seeking may reside on those pages, or you can make a request through the department itself.
- Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors: The staff members in the Clerk of the Board's Office are familiar with the County's departments and may be able to help you identify the department that has the records you are seeking. The Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors can be reached at 925-655-2000 or you can visit the office during regular business hours at 1025 Escobar St., 1st Floor, in Martinez.
- Office of Communication and Media: Staff members in this office are also familiar with County operations, and can assist in connecting you to the right department. You can reach this office at 925-313-1180.
- County Enterprise System Catalog:This webpage provides access to a catalog of County computer systems that contain official records of information used in conducting the public's business.
Once you have identified the County department that you believe has the records you are seeking, you may request the records from it in the following ways:
- By telephone: Each County department has a telephone number that the public can call during regular business hours to make requests or to be referred to a County employee who can help with the request. You can find those numbers on their departmental web pages.
- By visiting the front counter of a department: Each County department will have a staff person to assist the public with walk-in requests during regular business hours.
- By submitting a request in writing via email, U.S. Mail, or fax: Most County departments can accept requests by email, mail or fax. When submitting a request by one of these methods, provide contact information to permit staff to respond to your request. You may submit to the proper department a completed form to help expedite your request:
How to Make a Request
- You may make an oral or written request to the appropriate County department.
- To speed up your request, make your request as specific as possible about the records you are seeking. For example, you may want to provide a date range for your request, the department or staff that created the requested records, and/or any helpful keywords. You may complete and submitting a Public Records Request Form (link above) to the appropriate department to help expedite your request.
- Provide contact information or arrange to call or meet with a department representative at a later time to discuss the availability of the requested records.
- Let the County department know whether you would like to inspect the records or have copies made (which may involve a cost - see final section, below).
How Your Request is Processed
Each County department will respond directly to requests it receives. If a department receives a request for records that it does not possess, it will notify you that it has no responsive records and, if it can do so, will forward the request to departments that may possess the requested records.
When You Can Expect a Response
Upon a request for records that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, County staff will make every reasonable effort to make the records promptly available to you upon the payment of any applicable fees. If County staff cannot respond immediately, they will tell you when you reasonably can expect a response.
When Requested Records Are Ready
After you receive a response from the County department concerning the availability of the requested records, you can arrange to inspect the records or have them copied:
- Inspection - If you wish to inspect the records and have provided contact information, a department representative will contact you to make an appointment to inspect the records. If you have not provided the department with contact information, you will need to call or return to the department to arrange for inspection of the records. There is no fee associated with inspecting public records.
- Copies - If you wish to obtain copies of records and have provided contact information, a department representative will contact you with a time and cost estimate for producing the requested records. You may, upon payment of applicable fees, pick up the records when they become available or have them mailed to you. If you have not provided the department with contact information, you will need to call or return to the department to arrange for copying and pick up of the records.
How Much Does It Cost to Obtain Public Records?
There is no charge to review records; however, County policy permits the County to charge a fee to cover any duplication, electronic media, and/or data system programming costs. Generally, copies are:
- $0.10 for a single-sided page
- $0.20 for a double-sided page
- $3 for a data compact disc
Data system programming costs related to extracting, compiling, and displaying data are dependent on the request and the system on which data is stored, and will vary on a case-by-case basis.