The Vermont Statutes Online
Subchapter 003 : Access to Public Records(Cite as: 1 V.S.A. § 318)
§ 318. Procedure
(a)(1) As used in this section, "promptly" means immediately, with little or no delay, and, unless otherwise provided in this section, not more than three business days:
(A) from receipt of a request under this subchapter; or
(B) in the case of a reversal on appeal by a head of the agency pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, from the date of the determination on appeal.
(2) A custodian or head of the agency who fails to comply with the applicable time limit provisions of this section shall be deemed to have denied the request or the appeal upon the expiration of the time limit.
(b) Upon request, the custodian of a public record shall promptly produce the record for inspection or a copy of the record, except that:
(1) If the record is in active use or in storage and therefore not available for use at the time the person asks to examine it, the custodian shall promptly certify this fact in writing to the applicant and, in the certification, set a date and hour within one calendar week of the request when the record will be available.
(2) If the custodian considers the record to be exempt from inspection and copying under the provisions of this subchapter, the custodian shall promptly so certify in writing. The certification shall:
(A) identify the records withheld;
(B) include the asserted statutory basis for denial and a brief statement of the reasons and supporting facts for denial;
(C) provide the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for denial of the request; and
(D) notify the person of his or her right to appeal to the head of the agency any adverse determination.
(4) If a record does not exist, the custodian shall promptly certify in writing that the record does not exist under the name given to the custodian by the applicant or by any other name known to the custodian.
(5) In unusual circumstances as herein specified, the time limits prescribed in this section may be extended by written notice to the person making the request setting forth the reasons for the extension and the date on which a determination is expected to be dispatched. No such notice shall specify a date that would result in an extension for more than ten business days from receipt of the request or, in the case of a reversal on appeal by a head of the agency pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, from the date of the determination on appeal. As used in this subdivision, "unusual circumstances" means to the extent reasonably necessary to the proper processing of the particular request:
(A) the need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;
(B) the need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request; or
(C) the need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having a substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein, or with the Attorney General.
(c)(1) Any denial of access by the custodian of a public record may be appealed to the head of the agency. The head of the agency shall make a written determination on an appeal within five business days after the receipt of the appeal.
(2) If the head of the agency upholds the denial of a request for records, in whole or in part, the written determination shall include:
(A) the asserted statutory basis for upholding the denial;
(B) a brief statement of the reasons and supporting facts for upholding the denial; and
(C) notification of the provisions for judicial review of the determination under section 319 of this title.
(3) If the head of the agency reverses the denial of a request for records, the records shall be promptly made available to the person making the request.
(d) In responding to a request to inspect or copy a record under this subchapter, a public agency shall consult with the person making the request in order to clarify the request or to obtain additional information that will assist the public agency in responding to the request and, when authorized by this subchapter, in facilitating production of the requested record for inspection or copying. In unusual circumstances, as that term is defined in subdivision (b)(5) of this section, a public agency may request that a person seeking a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records narrow the scope of a public records request.
(e) A public agency shall not withhold any record in its entirety on the basis that it contains some exempt content if the record is otherwise subject to disclosure; instead, the public agency shall redact the information it considers to be exempt and produce the record accompanied by an explanation of the basis for denial of the redacted information.
(f) If a person making the request has a disability that requires accommodation to gain equal access to the public record sought, the person shall notify the public agency of the type of accommodation requested. The public agency shall give primary consideration to the accommodation choice expressed by the requestor, but may propose an alternative accommodation so long as it achieves equal access. The public agency shall provide accommodation to the person making the request unless the agency can demonstrate that accommodation would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of its service, programs, activities, or in undue financial and administrative burden.
(g) The Secretary of State shall provide municipal public agencies and members of the public information and advice regarding the requirements of the Public Records Act and may utilize informational websites, toll-free telephone numbers, or other methods to provide such information and advice.
(h) The head of a State agency or department shall:
(1) designate the agency's or department's records officer described in 3 V.S.A. § 218, or shall designate some other person, to be accountable for overseeing the processing of requests for public records received by the agency or department in accordance with this section; and
(2) post on the agency's or department's website the name and contact information of the person designated under subdivision (1) of this subsection. (Added 1975, No. 231 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2005, No. 132 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 2007, No. 110 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2011, No. 59, § 4; 2017, No. 166 (Adj. Sess.), § 5; 2019, No. 14, § 1, eff. April 30, 2019.)