As a state agency our records and production thereof are not governed by the Freedom of Information Act. However, Louisiana law requires us to make available records for your examination and provide copies as requested. The procedure under the Public Records Act for reviewing the files of the Department is to contact the Department in writing or by telephone to set up a convenient time to look at the files.
Records will be made available promptly to anyone 18 years of age or older during business hours. LA R.S. 44:33 allows the Department to withhold production of records for a maximum of three days only if they are in use by the agency. If this is the case, the custodian must certify the unavailability and set a time in the certification within 3 days, exclusive of holidays and weekends, for the requester to view the record.
Except for information which has been declared confidential, the files are public and available for anyone to review. The Department will provide copies at ($.25) per copy of your selected documents. The office hours for SLU are 7:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., CST, Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. on Fridays. (Note: Summer Hours are: 7:00 A.M. to 5:30 P.M., Monday through Thursday, Closed Fridays.)
Copies of public records shall be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge to indigent citizens of this state or to persons whose use of such copies will be limited to a public purpose, including but not limited to use in a hearing before any governmental regulatory commission. Free copies of up to 500 pages per year are available; after that a fee of 5 cents per page will be charged. Prior to making free copies the requestor must sign an Affidavit of poverty or an Affidavit of public use of public documents each time he/she requests public records.
The Public Records law says that we must make records available for review and produce copies as requested. We are under no obligation to mail copies upon written request, particularly if the request is vague, broad or onerous. In such a case, the requester may come in and choose the record he wants and it will be promptly copied. If he is unable to come in, then files may be copied in their entirety and payment in advance by check may be an option for the requestor. Production of records is governed by the state public records law, not by the Freedom of Information Act, so anyone citing this as a basis for copies will be informed that it is not applicable to a state agency.
LA R.S. 30:2030 requires persons seeking confidentiality for otherwise public records to request confidentiality in writing. Any such request must include solid reasons for granting confidentiality; a simple request will not suffice. This same statute requires the director to make a determination in writing. Absent a request with substantial reasons and a written determination by the secretary, there is no confidential privilege for a public record. Confidentiality may only be granted if necessary to (a) prevent impairment of on an ongoing investigation or prejudice to the final decision regarding a violation; or (b) protect trade secrets, proprietary information, and commercial or financial information. Pending a determination of confidentiality, documents will be kept confidential. Once the documents have been declared confidential in writing by the director, they are segregated from the public records and kept in a secure place. However, duly authorized officers of employees of state or federal government may review these documents if needed for carrying out their duties.
This is a public record. Obviously, if the requestor is asking for certain fields of information which are not part of your program, then there is no obligation to produce this information. However, anything that is retrievable is public record unless it is still in the draft stage in which case it would be treated as a draft document. We do not have the personnel to handle frequent or onerous requests for computer data. However, if this can be done, will be cost based on the number of discs required to reproduce the requested information, and the time of the person charged with the task.
Anyone having care or custody of public records must exercise due diligence in maintaining these records for a period of at least three years. This includes any documents submitted to the department, even if a determination is made that the document is deficient. In such an instance the deficient document can be supplemented or replaced with a corrected document, but the deficient document, once submitted, is a public record that must be maintained for three years.