What records should I request?

Experts say auditors must besure that the requested records are public records. 

The point of the audit isnot to find out what records are public — it is to see how well publicagencies comply with open-records laws and statutes.

Charles Davis,director of the Freedom of Information Center, said auditors should request“basic governance” documents. But the exact documents auditorsshould request depend on the type of audit they want to do. 

“Consult with an FOI expert or a media attorney in your communityor in your state and pre-check the documents” because each state has adifferent open-records law, he said.No matter the records requested, beprepared to be treated with suspicion, said Glen Bleske, associate professor atChico State University, who had a class audit its community.

Expertssuggest the following records as good choices:

• Budget documents— Ask for the budget of a department or the central administration or theschool as a whole. 

“You ought to be able to see where your money isgoing,” Davis said. “And it ought to be, in most states, a publicrecord.”

• Meeting minutes — Almost all minutes frommeetings of public bodies are open records.

• Salaries of publicemployees — Bleske said that while salaries are public records at manypublic agencies, they are one of the most difficult public records toget.

• College campus police incident reports — The CleryAct, a federal campus crime law, requires all campus police departments to keepan open log of crimes committed on campus. These records fall under the federallaw, and they may be subject to state open-records laws, as well. 

“Youwould be amazed at how difficult that is to get at campuses around thecountry,” Davis said.