During Sunshine Law Week and in the midst of shutdowns due to the spread of COVID-19, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is offering guidance to governmental bodies on handling public records requests.
Attorney General Schmitt issued guidance on public meetings and complying with the Sunshine Law in the midst of coronavirus shutdowns to governmental bodies on Wednesday.
The guidance letter that addresses issues related to public records requests can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2019/sunshine-law-compliance-for-public-records-requests-2.pdf?sfvrsn=fe658167_2
The letter offers tips to governmental bodies on how to best handle records requests, including: forward all requests to the custodian of records, respond within three business days of receipt, inform the public if more time is needed to fulfill requests, provide as many updates as possible on the status of requests, and provide information through automatic out-of-office replies and websites.
The letter states that if the custodian of records is working full time or part time, either in person or remotely, “the Sunshine Law still requires the public governmental body to respond to every request for records upon the custodian’s receipt.”
If the custodian of records is unable or will not be working, “the public governmental body should implement automatic out-of-office replies for the appropriate email account.” The letter also gives a suggestion of language to use for out of office replies.
The Attorney General’s Sunshine Law booklet also has ten frequently asked questions and other guidelines and tips for citizens and governmental bodies alike. The booklet, as well as a dashboard displaying statistics relating to the Attorney General’s Office’s handling of Sunshine Law complaints and requests can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/missouri-law/sunshine-law
Any governmental bodies or officials with questions should visit the Attorney General’s website at www.ago.mo.gov/missouri-law/sunshine-law or contact the Director of Sunshine Law Compliance, Ms. Casey Lawrence, at 573-751-8905.