Mecklenburg County is committed to making public records available to members of the public in a timely manner. Therefore, the following public records request procedures are established to help accommodate the public’s right to access public County records while setting forth defined and consistent steps for requesting these records. These procedures are balanced by the equally important need to protect records from damage, loss, alteration or disorganization, and to prevent excessive interference with essential functions of County government.
North Carolina public records law is found in G.S. Chapter 132. The definition of a public record is contained in N.C. G.S. §132-1, see B.1. The custodian of the records bears the responsibility of maintaining the records and also permitting the public inspection, or providing copies of the records upon request. The statute declares that the official in charge of an office that holds the public records is the custodian of the records. Some departments/agencies (e.g., Area Mental Health, GIS, Health Department, Register of Deeds Office, and Social Services) have specific policies for requesting and complying with a public records request, which are provided in Attachment 2. The statute also authorizes a fee to be charged for copying of records. These procedures also include a fee schedule to cover the reasonable cost of responding to public record requests, consistent with North Carolina’s public records laws.
Unless specifically stated otherwise, the process includes the following procedures:
- How to request copies of public records
- What to expect after a request is made
- How to request only inspection of records
- Denial of request and appeals
- Duplication and mailing fees
- Deposit for duplication
- Payment of required fees
- Failure to pay required fees
1 . How to Request Copies of Public Records
A public records request should be made to the custodian of records at a specific department/agency where they are maintained [see above]. The procedure in place, if any, within that department must be followed. To process any other public records requests in a timely, consistent and orderly fashion, the County requests that these requests be submitted, in writing, using the Mecklenburg County Government Public Records Request Form and mailed, hand-delivered, or emailed to the Mecklenburg County Public Service and Information Department. Requests made in person at the Public Service and Information Department will be considered during normal business hours.
Mailing / Delivery address:
Public Service & Information
Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center
600 E. Fourth St., Charlotte, NC 28202
To streamline and track the receipt and fulfillment of public record requests, requests made by phone will not be accepted. A request is considered filed when Public Service and Information has confirmed receipt of the request form. If a requestor does not use the form or provide the request to Public Service and Information, the County’s consideration of the request may be delayed.
Submitting a Public Records Request:
When making a records request, the written request using the County form should contain the following information:
- Date of the request
- Requestor’s name
- Requestor’s full mailing address (name, organization, street address, city, state, ZIP)
- Requestor’s day time phone number
- A complete description of the record or records requested;
- The title and date of the requested record or records, if known; and
- Whether the requestor intends to inspect the records or obtain a photocopy. A fee is required for photocopies as set forth below.
MECKLENBURG COUNTY PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST FORM LINK:
2. What to Expect After a Request is Made
A - Within one business day of receipt of the request, the County will provide an acknowledgement of the request. For requests that do not require extensive research or use of information technology or extensive clerical resources, the County will provide a follow-up response to the request as soon as possible, normally within five (5) business days of receipt. If the request is received after 5 p.m., the request will be considered received on the next business day. The follow-up response may include:
- Providing or making available the record after the payment of applicable fees, if any, (see fee schedule below);
- An estimate of the time necessary for further response;
- Denying the request accompanied by an explanation of the basis for the denial;
- Requesting a deposit; or
- Requesting clarification of the request; and
If the follow-up response asks for clarification on the request, no further response will be made to the requestor until the clarification is received by Public Service and Information.
Where the request for public records is extraordinarily large such that extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel is required as set forth in G.S. 132-6.2(b), then the County shall respond to the requestor to discuss the most appropriate procedure to efficiently meet the request and the cost associated with the request.
B - Once the County receives a complete request, the County will respond either by:
- Providing or making available the record requested; or
- Denying the request accompanied by an explanation of the basis for the denial as well as the procedure for appealing the denial.
C - All public records requests become public records as soon as they are received by Mecklenburg County. Mecklenburg County may post online requests it receives for public records along with the response to the request.
D - A public record request is not continuing in nature. Therefore, it only applies to public records available at the time of the request. If additional records are created after the date of the requestor’s original public records request, the requestor must submit a new request for this public record. Any records or portions of records made available by the County will be provided to the requestor in the same format they are maintained by the County.
If the requestor specifies a preference for a specific format, records will be produced in the requested format if:
- it is determined that the records exist and are subject to release;
- the County is capable of providing the records in the format requested;
- the format requested is consistent with how the record is maintained or is otherwise reasonable; and
- the requestor pays all fees associated with the fulfilling the request.
The County’s response to the request will be considered complete and final upon:
- Requestor’s inspection of the records;
- Upon notification to the requestor that the photocopies requested are available for payment and pick-up (in the event photocopies were requested);
- A denial of the request.
E - Requests for public records will be addressed and fulfilled according to the order in which they are received. Multiple requests from the same requestor and/or different requestors from the same organization will be addressed and fulfilled according the order in which they are received, unless otherwise specified by the requestor or the organization.
F - REDACTION
If a record subject to a public records request is a protected record, it will not be made available. However, a public record may contain information that is protected, but the entire record is not protected. In those cases, the protected information will be deleted in a manner that shows that a deletion was made. It is the custodian’s responsibility to see that protected information is protected. If a custodian is providing an electronic copy that includes protected information that must be redacted, he or she should either cut and paste or export and edit to protect the protected part of the record.
3. How to Request Inspection Only of Records
If a requestor chooses to only inspect records, the County will notify the requestor once the records are available for inspection. The records will be available for inspection at a date and time mutually agreeable between the requestor and the County. The appointment to inspect the records may need to be broken into intervals, possibly over a several days, so as to not interfere with the daily operations of County business.
Any appointment to inspect records is limited to no more than a two (2) hour appointment on any given day, unless otherwise mutually agreed upon between the requestor and the County. Records will be made available to the requestor for up to fourteen (14) calendar days. If the requestor fails to contact the County within fourteen (14) calendar days of being notified that the records are available for inspection, the requester will need to submit a new request for the records and the process will begin anew.
4. Denial of Request and Appeals
If a request for public records is denied, the requestor may appeal the denial in writing to the address or email below. A response to the appeal will be delivered to the requestor within five (5) business days of the County’s receipt of the appeal. Appeals may be delivered to the County by hand delivery, mail or email using the contact information listed below:
Mecklenburg County Public Service and Information
Attn: Records Appeal
Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center
600 E. Fourth St., Charlotte, NC 28202
5. Duplication and Mailing Fees
If the requestor has asked that a copy of the public record be produced, then prior to the release of the copy the County will collect duplication fees. The County will update and post duplication fees as appropriate.
The 2011-2012 budget year fee schedule for copies is listed below:
8 1/2" X 11" single-sided hardcopy $0.03
8 1/2" X 11" double-sided hardcopy $0.05
Compact Disk Read-Only Memory (CD-ROM) $0.49
DVD Duplication of Board of County Commissioners meeting $3.00
Email attachment (of ten megabytes or less) or link: No cost.
Copies of public records that are not otherwise available in pre-printed form and that require an extensive use of clerical or information technology resources may be considered a special service and subject to an additional labor charge based on the County’s current pay schedule (February 2011) for the staff required to fulfill the request. Charges under this provision shall be imposed for every 6-minute increment or fraction thereof, but shall not relate back to the first 10 minutes.
Standard US Postal Service first class mailing fees shall be charged for mailing copies of public records to any person, firm or corporation. The mailing fee shall be in addition to any other copying fee provided for herein.
6. Deposit for Duplication
In providing a response to a records request, the County will provide all requested audio tapes, DVDs, computer diskettes or other media containing public records.
If it is estimated that the duplication or transmission fees applicable to a particular records request exceed $25.00, the County, at its discretion, may require the requestor to deposit a sum equal to 75 percent of the estimated cost prior to duplication of the records.
If a deposit is required, the County will notify the requestor of the necessity of the deposit. In the event that the actual duplication and deposit fees are less than the amount deposited by the requestor, the County will return the sum in excess of the actual amount to the requestor.
7. Payment of Required Fees
Payment of duplication and delivery fees will be made prior to the release of public records. When required, the payment of a deposit will be made prior to the duplication of any records (see 6 above). All payments will be made by cash, money order, or check payable to Mecklenburg County.
Payment will be made in person at the Public Service and Information office on the second floor of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center. A copy of the public records request must be submitted with payment.
8. Failure to Pay Required Fees
If a requestor fails to pay a bill for fees incurred within 30 calendar days, the County may require the requestor to pay in full any past due amount owed before it will begin processing a new request or a pending request from the delinquent requestor.
In addition, the County may require advance payment for any future requests of the full amount of the estimated fee before the agency begins to process a new request or a pending request from that requestor.
If the County is unable to collect the duplication fees from the requestor, the County may, upon providing thirty (30) calendar days prior written notice to the requestor, destroy the duplicated set of records made available for the requestor to avoid storage concerns. Although the records are destroyed, the requestor will still be made responsible for the costs the County incurred in duplicating the records originally requested by the requestor.