How do I obtain a copy of a public record in Modesto?
To review or receive a copy of a public record, you must first make a request to the City Clerk's Office or
the City department that has the records you are interested in reviewing. For example, if you are interested
in reviewing a copy of a report from the Department of Public Works, you should direct your request to that
Do I have to make my request in writing?
No. You may make an oral or written request, in person or through the mail. However, we recommend that you
put your request in writing so there is a clear record of your request. A written request that is clear and
concise also helps the custodian to respond to your request in a timely and efficient manner.
What do I need to say in my request?
There is no specific form that must be used to request records, nor is there any language you must use in your
request. You must provide a reasonable description of the desired records. To expedite processing of your
request, you should be as specific as possible and provide timelines whenever possible to help narrow the search.
How long does a City department have to respond to my request?
Generally, the City must respond to a request to inspect or copy records within ten days. In "unusual circumstances,"
the City may extend its time to respond by an additional fourteen calendar days. The City must inform you in
writing of the extension within the initial ten-day period.
"Unusual circumstances" permitting the extension are limited to the need to: (a) search for and collect the
requested records from facilities separate from the office processing the request; (b) search for, collect
and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records included in a single request;
and/or (c) consult with another part of the department or with another department that has a substantial
interest in the response to the request.
How much may the City charge me for responding to the request?
The City may not charge any fees to cover the time and costs incurred in searching for, locating or collecting
records to respond to your request. However, the Department may charge you for the duplication of copies of
records. That amount will be provided to you. Whenever possible the department will advise you of the
estimated cost of the copies before the costs of copying are incurred.
You are also free to make arrangements to view the records, and there is no charge for this.
Do I have to tell the City why I want the record?
No. You do not have to give the City a reason for reviewing the record. City employees, however, may ask
questions relating to your request if it helps them respond to the request or direct you to another Department
that may have the records you seek.
What records are public?
The law defines "public record" broadly to include "any writing containing information relating to the conduct
of the public's business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency, regardless of the
physical form and characteristics." A document does not have to be in written form to be a public record. A
public record may consist of any medium that contains information, such as a computer tape or disc or video or
Every record made or received by the City is presumed to be a public record, unless it is subject to an
exemption. Exempt records are those that federal, state or local law prohibits the City from disclosing or
permits the City to decline to disclose. For example, the United States and California Constitutions prohibit
the City that would violate an individual's right to privacy.
The custodian of records must either give you a copy of the requested record or provide you with a written
justification of why the record is not public. The City is not required to create a document in response to a
request. Nor is the City required to honor prospective requests.
If the custodian denies the request, is he or she required to give me a written log listing the
documents the City is refusing to disclose?
No. Although the City is required to provided a written justification giving the legal reason why the record
is not public, the law does not require the City to provide to you a document log.