Public Records Requests

University Policy 605.8, Public Records Requests

Executive Summary: 

This policy sets forth the University's policy and procedure in responding to public records requests.

I. Purpose

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is open and responsive to public records requests from the public and the news media.  If a University department or unit has a question about the legality of releasing requested records, that department or unit should consult with the Public Records Officer in the  Office of Legal Affairs. This Policy is implemented in accordance with the NC Public Records Act and other applicable federal and state laws.

II. Public Records Requests
  1. “Public records” are all records created or received in the course of University business, in whatever format, including all documents, 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, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by the University.  Note that the physical location of the records is inconsequential and that records on your personal devices (computers, smart phones, etc.) are still public records that are subject to the statute and this policy statement.
  2. Anyone who seeks access to the University’s public records should direct a written request to the custodian of the records being sought.  The custodian of records is the person responsible for a particular office or type of record maintained at the University.  For instance, student record requests should be directed to the registrar, personnel records requests should be directed to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, and law enforcement records requests should be directed to the chief of police.  A written request is needed so that the University can be certain what records are being requested.  If a request is not made in writing, the custodian should consult with the Public Records Officer in the Office of Legal Affairs to produce a written response to the requestor stating the University’s understanding of what records are being requested.
  3. Administrators, faculty, and staff who receive public records requests should notify the Public Records Officer in the Office of Legal Affairs that a request has been received and confer to determine the applicability of the North Carolina Public Records Act.  Consultation should take place prior to releasing information that may be of a confidential nature.
  4. Exceptions that make records confidential are established by federal and state privacy and privilege laws. Any questions regarding the confidentiality of records or portions of records must be directed to the Public Records Officer in the Office of Legal Affairs.  The most common exceptions such that the records constitute confidential information and may not be disclosed to the public, include, but are not limited to, the following:
    1. Personnel records

An employee's personnel records are confidential in accordance with the Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records Act, NCGS §126-23, except that the following information is public about every employee:

  1. Name;
  2. Age;
  3. Date of original State employment or appointment to State service;
  4. The terms of any contract by which the employee is employed whether written or oral, past and current, to the extent that the agency has the written contract or a record of the oral contract in its possession;
  5. Current position;
  6. Title;
  7. Current salary;
  8. Date and amount of each increase or decrease in salary with that department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau;
  9. Date and type of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification within that department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau;
  10. Date and general description of the reasons for each promotion with that department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau;
  11. Date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons taken by the department, agency, institution, commission, or bureau.  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
  12. The office or department to which the employee is currently assigned. 

Salary information includes pay, benefits, incentives, bonuses, and deferred and all other forms of compensation paid by the employing entity.  In addition, the UNC Board of Governors has enacted a policy in which provisions specific to the contracts of head coaches and athletic directors in the UNC system can be found (see UNC Policy Manual §1100.3.A.6). 

  1. Students' academic, medical and counseling records

State privilege laws require that, with rare exception, medical and counseling records be kept confidential, and federal disabilities law requires confidentiality for medical information provided in connection with Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.  In addition, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts information that can be released about a student without the student’s written consent.  University Policy 402, Student Records, defines “directory information,” which is information about a student that may be released without a student’s consent.  Before releasing directory information about any student, the custodian receiving the request must check with the Registrar’s office to determine whether the student has placed a privacy block on the information.

  1. Patent applications and other documents that contain trade secrets

  2. Certain criminal investigation and law enforcement records

  3. Minutes of closed meetings, but only if such disclosure would frustrate the purpose of the closed session as set forth under Section 143-318.10 of the NC Open Meetings Act

  1. The custodian of records must permit inspection of the requested records as promptly as possible after receiving the public records request. Access to public records must be made at reasonable times and under reasonable supervision.  The custodian must separate any confidential information from otherwise accessible public records.  As previously noted, such separations and redactions must be done in cooperation with the Office of Legal Affairs.  

If the requestor asks for copies, the University may charge the actual costs of making the copies but not the costs of labor.  Generally, the University will not charge for the costs of the copies unless the amount equals fifty dollars ($50.00) or more.  For extraordinary reproduction or copying requests, the University may charge a special service fee as stated in Section III below.  The special service fee for production of extraordinary public records requests, set forth in Section III below, is separate and distinct from the copying charge.

III. Costs for Production of Extraordinary Public Records Requests

If the request requires extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance, or if producing the record in the medium requested results in a greater use of information technology resources than that established by the University for reproduction of the volume of information requested, then the University may charge, in addition to the actual cost of duplication, a special service charge.  The special service charge shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the University or attributable to the University.  The University considers more than four (4) hours to constitute extensive use of personnel.  If preparation of the response to the request exceeds four (4) hours, the University will charge the amount required to recover the cost of such extensive use of personnel.  Currently, that amount is a presumed rate of $18.00 per hour.  The custodian shall estimate the costs of such extraordinary requests prior to making the documents available for inspection and allow the requestor the option of either agreeing to pay the costs or revising the request to narrow its nature or scope.  If the estimated cost exceeds $500.00, a 50% deposit will be required prior to any associated labor in fulfilling the public records request.  Multiple requests within a short period of time from the same individual will be considered a single request for purposes of determining whether to charge under this section.

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 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.

IV. Retention of Public Records
  1. Public records may not be destroyed, except in accordance with the University’ records retention schedule.
  2. 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.
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