FAQ

What is the purpose of the California Public Records Act?

The purpose of the California Public Records Act is to provide the public access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business.

What are public records?

Public records include any writing, photograph, sound recording, and/or video that relates in some substantive way to the conduct of the public’s business.

Public records may include documents such as staff reports submitted to the Board of Supervisors, animal bite reports, and contracts.

Who can request public records?

Anyone may make a request to inspect or obtain a copy of a public record. A requester is not required to provide a reason for the request.

Can I still find information without submitting a California Public Records Act request?

Yes. The County’s main website and individual department websites contain information, reports, and other material that you may find helpful.

Beyond records held by the departments, there may be records that have already been uploaded to the County’s website. The following list summarizes commonly requested public records that are currently available online:

Another helpful resource is the “search” tab located on the top of the County and individual department websites.

What if I only have a question or want general information?

General questions or requests for information, typically do not qualify as California Public Records Act requests. For example, asking for the County’s total budget, qualifies as a request for information (about $6.2 billion for fiscal year 2017-18). However, asking for the County’s budget documents, qualifies as a California Public Records Act request (County of Orange FY 2017-18 Annual Budget).

If you are seeking general information, rather than a public record, or would like more information, please contact the appropriate department. 

What documents can be released in response to a California Public Records Act request?

Responsive public records not subject to an exemption. The County is not required to create new records, collect, or analyze information, or conduct legal research.

What makes a record exempt?

The California Public Records Act does not require and, in some cases, forbids the production of certain information and/or records. For example, personally identifiable information such as a public employee’s home address, home telephone number, cell phone number, and birth date cannot be released in response to a California Public Records Act request, pursuant to California Government Code section 6254.3. Other exemptions include attorney-client privilege, attorney work product, and deliberative process.

The responding department may and, sometimes must, redact specific information in the record or withhold the entire record, depending on the applicable exemption.

Some of the types of records that are potentially exempt include:

  • Personnel records, medical records, and similar files which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy if publicly disclosed;
  • Records pertaining to pending litigation to which a public agency is a party;
  • Preliminary drafts, notes, and memorandum;
  • Records covered by attorney-client privilege;
  • Examination data used to administer a licensing, employment, or academic examination;
  • Medi-Cal personal identifiable information;
  • HIPAA protected information; and
  • Criminal history information. 

When can I expect a response?

Upon receiving a request for records that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, County staff will respond within 10 calendar days with a determination of whether or not it has responsive records. Under certain circumstances, the County can extend the time for determination up to 14 calendar days.

If the due date falls on a holiday, Saturday, or Sunday, the response is due on the following business day.

When do I get the responsive records?

If the County has responsive, non-exempt record, then the records will be produced within a reasonable time period.

Please note that staff needs to collect the records, review the records for any exempt information, and potentially consult with counsel before making the records available for production. These tasks must be completed in addition to and in conjunction with normal County business.

If you need the record sooner, consider working with County staff to narrow the request. For example, consider limiting the time period of your request (e.g., request the current County budget documents instead of the County’s budget documents for the last 20 years).

If a request is submitted through the County PRA system (NextRequest), you may receive an email when a response or record is available.

I have an idea of what I am looking for but am not sure which documents to request. Now what?

Call the applicable Custodian of Records to clarify your request and how best to get the information and/or records you are seeking.

Can I make an anonymous request?

Yes. You may submit anonymous requests but must include your contact information in order for the responding department to reach you. You may use non-identifying contact information (e.g., requester123@gmail.com). The responding department may contact you to clarify your request or to send you the responsive records. Alternatively, you may visit the department to submit anonymous requests and arrange a time to review any responsive records.

How do I know if my request has been submitted?

Requesters using the online request form will receive an acknowledgement e-mail along with e-mail updates about the request and also have the option of creating an account in the County PRA system (NextRequest) to see the status of the request, download documents, set e-mail preferences, and track communication.

How much do the records cost?

Records e-mailed, viewed in-person, or made available through the County PRA system (NextRequest) are free of charge. Some records are not available in an electronic format or are too voluminous to send electronically.

Duplication fees are 15 cents per 8½” by 11” page. The fee for a CD or a flash drive is determined by individual departments. The County must receive payment before duplication begins. Checks should be made payable to the “County of Orange.”

Requesters do not pay for the staff time to search for and collect the records.

What if I don’t know which department to submit my request to?

If you are unsure, consider calling the County Executive Office or the Custodian of Records most likely to have the record. Note that if you submit your California Public Records Act request to the wrong department, it will be forwarded to the department most likely to have responsive records.

Who can I contact with questions about records and/or information?

Departments for which you can submit request via this online form are:

For all other departments, click on the department for contact information:

Still can’t find you’re looking for? Submit your request here to the County Executive Office and staff will assist you.