How do I obtain a copy of a public record in Modesto?
To review or receive a copy of a public record, you must first make a request to the
City Clerk's Office or the City department that has the records you are interested
in reviewing. For example, if you are interested in reviewing a copy of a report
from the Department of Public Works, you should direct your request to that Department.
Do I have to make my request in writing?
No. You may make an oral or written request, in person or through the mail. However,
we recommend that you put your request in writing so there is a clear record of your
request. In addition, a written request that includes your contact information can
help facilitate the City’s response to your request. A written request that is clear
and concise also helps the custodian to respond to your request in a timely and efficient
What do I need to say in my request?
There is no specific form that must be used to request records, nor is there any language
you must use in your request. You must provide a reasonable description of the desired
records. To expedite processing of your request, you should be as specific as possible
and provide timelines whenever possible to help narrow the search.
How long does a City department have to respond to my request?
Generally, the City must respond to a request to inspect or copy records within ten days.
In "unusual circumstances," the City may extend its time to respond by an additional
fourteen calendar days. The City must inform you in writing of the extension within the
initial ten-day period.
"Unusual circumstances" permitting the extension are limited to the need to: ((a) search
for and collect the requested records from facilities separate from the office processing
the request; (b) search for, collect and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of
separate and distinct records included in a single request; and/or (c) consult with another
part of the department or with another department that has a substantial interest in the
response to the request.
How much may the City charge me for responding to the request?
The City may not charge any fees to cover the time and costs incurred in searching for,
locating or collecting records to respond to your request. However, the Department may
charge you for the duplication of copies of records. That amount will be provided to you.
Whenever possible the department will advise you of the estimated cost of the copies before
the costs of copying are incurred.
You are also free to make arrangements to view the records, and there is no charge for this.
Do I have to tell the City why I want the record?
No. You do not have to give the City a reason for reviewing the record. City employees,
however, may ask questions relating to your request if it helps them respond to the request
or direct you to another Department that may have the records you seek.
What records are public?
The law defines "public record" broadly to include "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 the physical form and characteristics." A document does not have to be
in written form to be a public record. A public record may consist of any medium that contains
information, such as a computer tape or disc or video or cassette recording.
Every record made or received by the City is presumed to be a public record, unless it is subject
to an exemption. Exempt records are those that Federal, State or Local law prohibits the City
from disclosing or permits the City to decline to disclose. For example, the United States and
California Constitutions prohibit the disclosure of personal information that would violate an
individual's right to privacy.
The custodian of records must either give you a copy of the requested record or provide you with
a written justification of why the record is not public (i.e. exempt from disclosure). The City
is not required to create a document in response to a request. Nor is the City required to honor
If the custodian denies the request, is he or she required to give me a written log listing the
documents the City is refusing to disclose?
No. Although the City is required to provide a written justification giving the legal reason why
the record is not public, the law does not require the City to provide to you a document log.