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Overview of Vermont Public Records Law

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Overview of Vermont Public Records Law

Vermont’s public record law requires the custodian of public records to “promptly produce” a record upon request. The public has the right to inspect all public records during the custodian's normal office hours. The custodian of a public record is the person with statutory or other legal responsibility for creating or maintaining the record. The municipal clerk is the legal custodian of many, but not all, municipal public records.

Sometimes, a record may be in use or otherwise not immediately available, in which case the custodian has one calendar week to produce the document. In certain circumstances, the custodian of the record may be given up to ten days to respond to a records request. In either circumstance, the requestor must be given a written explanation of why the record is not immediately available and when, within the allowed timeframe, it will be available.

If the record custodian believes that a requested record is exempt from disclosure, the custodian, within three business days of the request, must identify in writing the statutory basis for the denial of access. The custodian must also notify the person of his or her right to appeal the decision to the head of the agency. Because a decision by the town clerk or treasurer is a final determination, (they have the final say about the records for which they have custody) the person requesting the document must be notified of his or her right to appeal the decision to court.

A person who requests copies of public records may be charged a statutory fee – if there is one – or the actual cost of providing the copy. The agency may also charge and collect from the person making the request, the costs associated with mailing or transmitting the record by facsimile or other electronic means.

When it takes longer than 30 minutes to comply with a records request, the agency may also charge and collect the cost of staff time, starting with the 31st minute, associated with complying with the request.

Note that the law does not require the agency to provide or arrange for copying service, to use or permit the use of copying equipment other than its own, to permit operation of its copying equipment by other than its own personnel, to permit removal of the public record by the requesting person for purposes of copying, or to make its own personnel available for making handwritten or typed copies of the public record or document requested. An agency must provide the record in a digital format if it is available in that format.

*A public agency may make reasonable rules to prevent disruption of operations, to preserve the security of public records or documents, and to protect them from damage.