What fees are associated with requesting public documents?
An agency may charge the “actual cost” for providing a copy of a public record. To determine “actual cost”, the secretary considers only:
- The cost of the paper or the electronic media onto which a public record is copied;
- A prorated amount for maintenance and replacement of the machine or equipment used to copy the record, and;
- Any utility charges directly associated with copying a record.Nothing in Vermont law exempts any person from paying fees for obtaining copies of public records or documents.
What public documents are exempt from Vermont’s public access law?
Thirty-eight total exemptions under Vermont law, including:
(1) Personnel files;
(2) Criminal investigation records;
(3) Tax documents;
(4) Location of historical/archeological sites
To read the list of exemptions in its entirety, click here.
Do I need to identify myself or explain why I want a public record when requesting one from a public agency?
Any person may inspect or copy any public record or document. Neither the motivation of the requester nor her or his use of the information or documents creates any restrictions. However, if records are sought by a party for use in a pending or ongoing litigation, they will likely be exempt from disclosure.
To view a sample letter for requesting a public record, click here:
What is the definition of a public record?
Public records are defined as all papers, documents, machine readable materials, or any other written or recorded matters regardless of their physical form or characteristics, that are produced or acquired in the course of agency business. This includes all forms of records, whether on paper or in electronic form.
This also includes:
- School district records
- Regional Planning Commission records
- Regional waste disposal, sewer, and water authority records
To view the list of records that are exempt from public access, click here.
Which government branches are exempted from the public access law? Which ones are included?
- Executive branch
Limited exemption; Some records of the Governor are protected by qualified executive privilege.
- Legislative branch
- Judicial branch
Exempt; Court and judicial records are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Law expressly exempts the judiciary.
For more information, see section I.B. of the Open Government Guide. Click here.
What public records are available online?
The Vermont Office of the Secretary of State provides online access to certain public records including:
- Campaign finance reports
- Manuscript state papers
- Notary public or master certificates of appointment Vermont Courts Online provides access to information from Vermont’s District, Family, and Superior Courts, including court calendar information for each court and detailed case information for Superior Courts. Records not open to public inspection by statute or court rule are not contained on the Web site.
What can I do if a public agency refuses to release a document?
A notice of appeal shall be filed within thirty days, except in the case of an unnoticed or secret meeting, in which case the appeal shall be filed within thirty days after the person filing the appeal receives notice that the meeting was in fact held. The commission hears and decides the appeal within one year after the notice of the filing of the appeal.
A person who wishes to appeal the agency denial may apply to the superior court in the county where he or she lives or has a business, or in the location of the public records, or in the superior court of Washington County.
To view a sample letter for appealing a decision, click here:
What is a public meeting?
Vermont law mandates that all meetings of a public body are to be open to the public at all times. A public body is defined as any agency, board, department, commission, committee, branch, instrumentality, or authority of the state or any agency, board, committee, department, branch, instrumentality, commission, or authority of any political subdivision of the state.
Your Rights at a Public Meeting
- The agenda for a regular or special meeting shall be made available to the news media or concerned persons prior to the meeting upon specific request.
- At an open meeting the public shall be given a reasonable opportunity to express its opinion on matters considered by the public body during the meeting as long as order is maintained.
- Minutes of all public meetings shall be matters of public record, shall be kept by the clerk or secretary of the public body, and shall be available for inspection by any person and for purchase of copies at cost upon request after five days from the date of any meeting.
What meetings are permitted to be closed?
Below are exemptions to Vermont’s access to public meetings law.
- Meetings pertaining to the judicial branch of the government of Vermont.
- Deliberations of any public body with a quasi-judicial proceeding.
- Meetings pertaining to a public service board.