The people have the right to know what their public officials are doing.
The people have an obligation to oversee their officials and public spending.
Public employees are sometimes reluctant to reveal information. That lead to the Brown Act and Public Record Act codifying the rights of citizens.
Even those were not enough, and the laws are continually refined.
The latest was Proposition 59 in 2004, which clarified that the default procedure should be for disclosure of records.
Guidelines Releated to City of La Habra Heights Planning and Building Dept
Public Records* available for Viewing and Copying include, but Are Not Limited To:
• Planning Applications and Application materials
• Conceptual Architectural Plans**
• Site & Grading Plans
• Topographical Maps
• Soils Reports
• Geological, Geotechnical, Hydrology, and other Studies and Reports
• Communications received from the public, outside agencies, and non-preliminary staff communications
• Environmental Checklists, Determinations, Studies, and Report
• Billing information
• Agenda Reports and Meeting Minutes
• Any and All Permits
• Code Enforcement Files, except portions that may disclose personal health information***
Video tapes, DVDs, maps, emails#, electronic files
* By authority of the California Public Records Act, Attorney General Opinion 05-1004, and “Fair Use” of the Federal Copyright Law
**Copying of Architectural Plans for purposes other than comment, criticism, or parody may be a violation of copyright law.
*** Disclosure of personal health information is a violation of Federal HIPAA
#Emails are public records, though the City does not yet recognize this. Here is one explanation
The following are available for viewing, but not copying:
• Official Building Plans
The following are not available to the Public
• Communication from the City Attorney stamped “Confidential”
• Draft Documents, Preliminary notes - though may be available under certain circumstances and practices
Pending litigation, though when litigation is settled, those records become public. Records that were public prior to litigation cannot become secret during litigation, except by court order.
When does a “document” become a Public Record?
• As soon as it is received from outside sources, or as soon as it is created in the department
When are records available?
Records are available during regular business hours.
Records must be provided upon request, unless they are not available or redaction is necessary, in which case they must be produced within 10 days. If a request is denied, it must be denied in writing.
It is not necessary for the person requesting the information to provide their name, phone number, or any other information, though it allows for response to written requests.
The City may only charge the actual cost of copying. No search costs or other costs may be charged.
Record Search and Creation
If you cannot describe exactly what you want, the city must make a reasonable effort to help you identify the record. However, the City does not have to create records to fill your request that do not already exist