Requirements for submitting FOIA Requests to the Lawrence County Health Department:
The two requirements for a FOIA request:
1. It must reasonably describe the specific records sought and 2. Must be made in accordance with the FOIA regulations.
The FOIA does not require the Lawrence County Health Department to answer questions, issue opinions, conduct legal research, create records or produce tangible objects in order to respond to a request.
A reasonable description of Lawrence County Health Department records would allow the FOIA Officer to locate records using reasonable efforts. For example, your description should contain enough file-related information (type of document, title, subject area, date of creation, originating office) or enough event-related information (date and circumstances surrounding the event the record covers) to permit a focused search.
A request must reasonably describe the record being sought. The request must be specific enough to permit the FOIA Officer to locate the record in a reasonable period of time.
It is to everyone's advantage if requests are as precise and as narrow as possible. The requester benefits because the request can be processed more quickly and at less cost. The Lawrence County Health Department benefits because it can do a better job responding to the request. The Lawrence County Health Department will also be able to use its resources to respond to more requests. The FOIA works best when both the requester and the Lawrence County Health Department act cooperatively.
First-party requests processed under FOIA for records found in “systems of records” (the term "system of records" means a group of any records under the control of the Lawrence County Health Department from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual) will also be processed under the Privacy Act, regardless of the statute cited in the request. Requesters will always be given the benefit of the statute with the more liberal release requirement.
Make certain your request includes the following:
Your contact information (Required: Name, Mailing Address; Phone number, while optional, may help you receive faster service if we need to contact you regarding your request)
Description of the records you are requesting
Agreement to pay reasonable fees, if applicable
Request is not in the form of a question (FOIA does not require agencies to answer questions; questions posed as FOIA requests will not be processed.)
If you are requesting records on yourself or another individual, see additional requirements below.
Limits on FOIA Requests:
While the FOIA supports disclosure of certain Lawrence County Health Department records, the law recognizes the legitimate need to restrict disclosure of some information. The FOIA does not grant an absolute right to examine certain documents; the FOIA establishes the right to request records and to receive a response to the request. If a record cannot be released, the requestor is entitled to be told the reason for the denial. The requester also has a right to appeal the denial and, if necessary, to challenge it in court.
Requests must reasonably describe records sought
A requester may ask for records - NOT information
Agencies are not required to collect information they do not have, nor must agencies research or analyze data for a requester
FOIA is not a research aide and we are not required to answer questions. If your request is in the form of a question (example: “Why did I need to use this entrance?”) your request will NOT be processed and you will be asked to clarify what records you are seeking.
There are certain types of information that are not available under the FOIA:
Tangible objects may not be requested under the FOIA.
Information about another individual may be requested under the FOIA but release is subject to application of the balancing test to decide whether the privacy interest of the affected party outweighs the public interest in the release of said information.
The FOIA law has a presumption that all information is public, unless the public body proves otherwise. There are several exceptions to public disclosure that include but are not limited to:
Private information – “Private information” is exempt from disclosure under FOIA. FOIA defines “private information” as “unique identifiers, including a person’s social security number, driver’s license number, employee identification number, biometric identifiers, personal financial information, passwords or other access codes, medical records, home or personal telephone numbers, and personal e-mail addresses.” Under FOIA, “private information also includes home addresses and personal license plate numbers, except as otherwise provided by law or when compiled without possibility of attribution to any person.”
Personal information that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, unless the disclosure is consented to in writing by the person who is the subject of the information. Under FOIA, the “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” means the “disclosure of information that is highly personal or objectionable to a reasonable person and in which the subject’s right to privacy outweighs any legitimate public interest in obtaining the information.” Disclosing information that relates to the public duties of public employees is not considered an invasion of personal privacy.
Information that, if disclosed, might endanger anyone’s life or physical safety.
Preliminary drafts or notes in which opinions are expressed or policies are formulated, unless the record is publicly cited and identified by the head of the public body.
Business trade secrets or commercial or financial information that is proprietary, privileged or confidential and disclosure would cause a competitive harm to the person or business.
Proposals and bids for any contract, until a final selection is made.
Requests that are “unduly burdensome.”
Requirements for Submitting a Privacy Act Request:
If you believe that the Lawrence County Health Department may have records about you, in addition to providing personally identifying information, requesters must also provide the following additional information:
Explain why you believe the Lawrence County Health Department would have information about you.
Identify which of the Lawrence County Health Department’s systems of records (the term "system of records" means a group of any records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular assigned to the individual) you believe the records are to be found in.
Specify when you believe the records would have been created.
Provide any other information that will help the FOIA Officer determine which department of the Lawrence County Health Department may have responsive records.
Provide verification of your identity by stating your full name, current address, date of birth, and place of birth.
Your verification of identity must include your original signature and must either be notarized or contain a statement made under penalty of perjury, pursuant to Lawrence County Health Department FOIA/PA regulations
If you request the Lawrence County Health Department to release records about you to another individual, (i.e. requesters seeking records to be released to their attorney or someone else acting on their behalf, those seeking to have records released to a parent or legal guardian), you must include a signed statement certifying your agreement for that individual to access records about you.
Without the above information, an effective search cannot be conducted, and your request will be denied due to a lack of specificity or lack of compliance with Lawrence County Health Department FOIA/PA regulations. Requests processed under the Privacy Act will also be processed under FOIA; requesters will always be given the benefit of the statute with the more liberal release requirements.
FOIA Processing Fees:
Provisions of the FOIA allow us to recover part of the cost of complying with your request. Fees are assessed according to 2010 FOIA guidelines:
Black and White Copies (8½ x 11): The first 50 pages are free. Any additional pages can cost no more than 15 cents per page.
Color Copies or Abnormal Size Copies: Actual cost of copying.
Other recording medium (Example: CDs, thumb drives, etc.): Actual cost of purchasing the recording medium.
FOIA Request Response Times:
The Lawrence County Health Department will respond to all FOIA requests within 5 business days from the day that the FOIA Officer receives the request. However, that time period may be extended for an additional 5 business days from the date of the original due date if:
The requested information is stored at a different location;
The request requires the collection of a substantial number of documents;
The request requires an extensive search;
The requested records have not been located and require additional effort to find;
The requested records need to be reviewed by staff who can determine whether they are exempt from FOIA;
The requested records cannot be produced without unduly burdening the public body or interfering with its operations; or
The request requires the public body to consult with another public body that has substantial interest in the subject matter of the request.
If additional time is needed, the Lawrence County Health Department will notify the requestor in writing within 5 business days after the receipt of the request of the statutory reasons for the extension and when the requested information will be produced.
What is a “business day” or “working day”? A “business day” or “working day” is a regular day of the week (Monday through Friday) when public offices and most businesses are open. Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays are not business days and cannot be counted in the 5 business day time period.