Online Community Lesson
Public Records: How
and Where to Get Them
The California Public
Records Act allows public records to be viewed by anyone. What are public
records? Public records are defined as “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 physical form or
characteristics.” In other words public records are documents like birth
and marriage certificates, court records, and minutes of public meetings.
There are some public
records which cannot be viewed by the public. These include test questions,
confidential records released to any agency, and data gathered for
Public records can be viewed
online or by visiting city hall. When visiting city hall, you have to fill
out an application and wait ten days in order to view any document. Access
to documents is free. You may not take a document with you, but you may get
a copy of the document. If you wish to obtain a copy, you have to pay a fee
of six to twenty-five cents per page.
A good public-records
website would be www.governmentregistry.org. Be careful when searching for
public records online, because there is always the risk of being deceived.
(See the essay entitled “The Eleventh Commandment”, in this newsletter.)
Other than that, enjoy your public-records search.
answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org with “Lesson answers” in the subject
field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in
community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization.
1. Public records can be obtained
(a) through the Internet.
(b) by visiting city hall.
(c) both (a) and (b).
2. What would be the best plan to save
time and money with regard to public records?
(a) Make a list of desired documents and
ask government officials to obtain and post documents at their websites.
(b) Ask neighbors what they consider
important, obtain those documents, and post them at a community website.
(c) Ask neighbors what they consider
important, obtain those documents, and give the documents to the public
library for classification and display.
February 1, 2007