What is the North Carolina Public Records Act (NC General Statute 132-1, et seq.)?
The North Carolina Public Records Act is a state law that allows the public to access all documents (including papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material) regardless of physical form or characteristics compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivision in the course and scope of business. The Act imposes obligations on all state and local government officials to: (1) allow inspection by any person or corporation of the government records that are not specifically exempted from disclosure; and (2) allow the public to obtain copies of their public information or public records promptly upon request free or at a minimal cost. “Minimal cost” shall mean the actual cost of reproducing the public record or public information.
What is a “public record”?
A “public record” refers to any record created or received in the course of University business, in whatever format (as noted above), regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by the University.
How do I make a public records request?
Submit your written request by visiting the University's online public records portal at https://unccharlotte.nextrequest.com/. For any questions, please contact the University Public Records Officer, Tina Dadio at email@example.com or contact the Office of Legal Affairs at (704) 687-5732.
Is the University required to create records that do not exist in order to comply with a public request?
No. The University is not required to respond to a request for a copy of a public record by creating or compiling a record that does not already exist. If the University, as a service to the requester, voluntarily elects to create or compile a record, it may negotiate a reasonable charge for the service with the requester. The University is not required to put into electronic medium a record that is not kept in electronic medium.
What is the difference between a Federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request and a North Carolina Public Record Act request?
FOIA generally applies to federal government agencies and not North Carolina state public agencies. If someone makes a request to the University under FOIA, it is treated as a request under the North Carolina Public Records Act.
How long will it take for the University to respond to my records request?
Under North Carolina law, the University must produce public records “as promptly as possible.” There is often a misconception that state law requires copies of public information to be produced within ten (10) days upon receipt of the written request. That is not the case. What is considered “as promptly as possible” will vary depending on the volume of documents sought by the requester. In certain cases, records can be produced in fewer than ten (10) days. However, large or complex requests may take much longer to fulfill.
Are there any fees associated when making a public records request?
Under the North Carolina Public Records Act, public agencies are authorized to charge minimal fees to cover the actual cost of reproducing public records or public information. If the request requires extensive clerical or supervisory staff assistance, then the University may charge, in addition to the actual cost of duplication, a special service charge. The University considers more than four (4) hours of work time to constitute extensive use of personnel. If preparation of the response to the request exceeds four (4) hours, the University will charge a presumed rate of $18.00 per hour. (For more information, please refer to University Policy 605.8, Public Records Requests).
If the estimated cost exceeds $500.00, a 50% deposit will be required prior to any associated labor in fulfilling the public records request. For the purposes of determining whether to charge a fee under Section III of University Policy 605.8, multiple requests within a short period from the same individual will be considered as a single request.
What records are considered exceptions under the North Carolina Public Records Act?
Exceptions that make records confidential are established by federal and state privacy laws, such as:
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 920 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99)
- North Carolina Public Records Act, (N.C.G.S. Chapter 132)
- North Carolina State Human Resources Act, (N.C.G.S. Chapter 126)
Please visit the University Policy, 605.8 for specific examples.
What information about an employee is open to the public?
- Age (not date of birth);
- Date of original employment or appointment;
- Terms of any contract by which the employee is employed whether written or oral, past and current;
- Current position;
- Current salary;
- Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary;
- Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification at the University;
- General description of the reasons for each promotion;
- Date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons. If the disciplinary action was a dismissal, a copy of the written notice of the final decision of the head of the department setting forth the specific acts or omissions that are the basis of the dismissal; and
- The office or department to which the employee is currently assigned (work contact information is available on UNC Charlotte’s online directory found here: https://directory.uncc.edu /)
What if an employee at the University receives a public records request?
Administrators, faculty, and staff who receive public records requests should notify the Public Records Officer in the Office of Legal Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org (or 7-8592) that a request has been received to confer about the applicability of the North Carolina Public Records Act. Consultation should take place prior to releasing any information that may be a confidential nature.
What about public records held on an employee’s personal device?
Remember that the physical location of the records is inconsequential and that records on your personal devices (i.e. computers, smart phones, etc.) are still public records that are subject to disclosure under the North Carolina Public Records Act, if those records were made or received in connection with the transaction of public business by the University and its employees.
When may public records be destroy?
Public Records may not be destroyed, except in accordance with the University’s records retention schedule. The University has a legal obligation to maintain all records that relate to a matter in litigation or other legal action. This obligation overrides the University’s records retention schedule. Upon notification from the Office of Legal Affairs, individuals may not destroy or delete any records relating to a matter in litigation or a grievance or pertaining to other legal matters.