The Montana Public Records Act allows any person to request public records in the state without a statement of purpose. Here is a template for requesting public records in Montana in compliance with the Public Records Act.
Name of State Act:
Public Records Act
Records may be closed if the right to individual privacy clearly exceeds the public's right to know. However, the Montana Supreme Court has upheld challenges to statutes or executive branch decisions that closed records, ruling that the constitutional public right to know outweighed the individual privacy interest.
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We have curated some of the most commonly asked questions for you.
What is a public record?
The newly enacted §2-6-1002(13) MCA defines public records as “public information” that is “fixed in any medium and is retrievable in usable form for future reference” and has been “designated for retention by the state (or local) records committee...” It is unclear whether the conjunction “and” is a necessary prerequisite to defining a public record. The term “public information” as used in the new law is defined as “information prepared, owned, used, or retained by any public agency… ” §2-6-1002(11). Note, that “public information” is not confined to “documents.” Technically, then, a public employee could be compelled to provide “information” of which he or she was aware, regardless of whether it is reflected in some document.
Can a state agency charge for copies?
Yes. §2-6-1006 permits an agency to charge for its costs in “gathering” and “copying” requested documents. The agency must give the requestor an estimate of the agency charges and is not obliged to gather or copy the document. In a 1996 memo to state agencies, Gov. Mark Racicot suggested a charge of .10 per copy as a “reasonable” charge. In no event, however can the costs exceed the actual costs incident to fulfilling the request. (§2-6-1006(3)).
Can my request for electronic records be denied?
The old law, §2-6-110 MCA, provided that each person is entitled to a copy of public information in electronic format, including emails, upon payment of a fee for the time and materials used to transfer the data. Under the new law, §2-6-1006(3), the agency can insist on payment of the estimated costs of retrieval before permitting access. This provision is particularly troublesome for electronically stored records because it will be difficult to impeach the agency estimate of the time necessary to identify or retrieve the record.
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