Tricky access topics from callers to ICOG.

Are appraisal records of your own property public record—especially when you’ve filed a lawsuit challenging your assessment?

Are swim meet attendance records of high school students public records?

In the tax case, the property owner ended up going to tax court and still didn’t get his appraisal documents—of his own property. In the swim meet case, the dad asking the question needed to check attendance records kept by the school to determine if his son was unfairly denied a letter in the sport.b

These are legitimate questions that both hinge on the availability of public records. While ICOG does have an attorney on call for members (check out our different membership levels online), we generally always refer citizens to the state’s Public Access Counselor as a first step.

Why? Seeking a PAC opinion often becomes critical if you go to court. If you are denied your request and need to sue for records, a PAC opinion supporting your case means you are eligible to be awarded attorney fees from the losing side.

How often do people have to sue and still don’t prevail with a supporting PAC opinion? Good question. We don’t know and government doesn’t track. It’s one of the significant weaknesses of the law creating the PAC. Following a PAC opinion to its logical end, however, is something ICOG will track this fall.

We’ve received national funding to support a survey this fall and find out if users of the PAC office were successful in getting public records or gaining entry into public meetings. Keep an eye on ICOG’s Web site for news on this.