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Who is the custodian of public records? How do I know who the custodian is?

Question: 

 Who is the custodian of public records?  How do I know who the custodian is?

Answer: 

A “lawful custodian” is defined as the “government body currently in physical possession of the public record.”  (Iowa Code Section 22.1(2)).  If records are maintained outside the physical possession of the government body, such as a contracted service, the government body owning that record is the “lawful custodian.”  The government body cannot prevent the examination or copying of a public record by contracting with a nongovernment storage provider.

As an example, paper records might be generated in a public office as required by the duties of that office.  As part of an overall government policy, those records might be stored in a climate controlled off-site storage facility.  Even though the records are in the physical possession of a non-government body, the custodian of the records is the government office that initially generated those records.

Another situation that could arise is when a government body uses an internet service to store records ‘in the cloud.’  A records request would be directed to the government body responsible for the collection and maintenance of those records, not the internet company that is paid to store the records.

The lawful custodian of records relating to investment of public funds is the public body responsible for oversight of those funds.

Iowa Code Section 22.1(2) requires each government body to “delegate to particular officials or employees of that government body the responsibility for implementing the requirements of (Chapter 22) and shall publicly announce the particular officials or employees to whom responsibility for implementing the requirements of this chapter has been delegated.”  

BEST PRACTICES:  A government body must determine who the designated lawful custodian will be and post that information in a public manner.  This may include a link on the government website, signage at the offices of the government, or, preferably, both.

Printed from the website on September 24, 2020 at 4:27am.