Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual - Policy 2300: Inspection of Public Records
Date Originally Issued: 11-01-2006
Revised: 08-12-2008, 02-01-2013, 01-08-2015, 12-12-2016
Authorized by RPM 2.17 ("Public Access to University Records")
Process Owner: Custodian of Public Records
Citizens in a democracy have a fundamental right to have access to public records. This right is recognized by the New Mexico Legislature through the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, NMSA 1978, §§ 14-2-1 et seq. (IPRA), and by the New Mexico Supreme Court, which stated in 1977 that a citizen’s right to know is the rule and secrecy is the exception. This policy and other related policies, including UAP 3210 ("Recruitment and Hiring") and UAP 3710 ("Personnel Information Disclosure Policy"), deal in whole or in part with the legal obligations of the University under IPRA. IPRA provides that every person has a right to inspect the public records of this state, subject to certain exceptions. “Public records” are defined by IPRA as all documents and records, regardless of physical form, that are used, created, received, maintained, or held by or on behalf of any public body and relate to public business, whether or not the records are required by law to be created or maintained.
The University is committed to fully complying with IPRA, and to making certain that pertinent University policies conform to existing IPRA requirements. Nevertheless, the right of public inspection under IPRA is subject to certain exceptions. The right of public inspection is limited to existing public records, and the University is not required to create a public record that does not otherwise exist. Exceptions to the right to inspect public records that are specifically listed in IPRA include, but are not limited to, medical records, letters of reference concerning employment, licensing or permits, matters of opinion in personnel or student files, confidential law enforcement records, documents covered by the Confidential Materials Act, trade secrets, attorney-client privileged information, and records that are considered non-public "as otherwise provided by law." Listing every kind of record that is exempt from IPRA disclosure requirements is not practical, and no attempt has been made in this and the related policies to interpret the application of IPRA to every kind of record that may become the subject of an IPRA request. However, some examples of records that the University considers exempt from public disclosure under IPRA include employee Social Security numbers, personnel evaluations, opinions regarding whether a person would be re-hired or regarding why an applicant was not hired, proprietary and protected information provided by a third party, and data relating to intellectual property or research that may result in patentable inventions, significant discoveries, or publications. If a document contains both exempt and non-exempt information, the University must separate the non-exempt material and make it available for inspection.
Medical records are exempt from public inspection under IPRA. Individuals requesting copies of medical records should contact the specific hospital, center, or clinic that rendered care, such as UNM Hospitals, UNM Cancer Center, Children's Psychiatric Center, or Carrie Tingley Hospital for procedures and the applicable fee schedule. Medical records are covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as described on the University Health Sciences Center HIPAA web page. Education records are exempt from public inspection as provided under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Students requesting their records should contact the University Registrar or the Student Health and Counseling Center, as appropriate. If education records are requested, the University will comply with FERPA, which pertains to all education records.
3. Open Records Portal
In an effort to simplify and enhance access to information, the University has implemented an online open public records portal. The portal can be accessed at https://unmipra.nextrequest.com/.
3.1. Sunshine Portal
Sunshine @ The University of New Mexico is UNM’s version of a transparency portal that allows public online access to UNM spending, budgets, revenues, employee salaries, purchase order information, and more. The portal can be accessed at https://sunshine.unm.edu/index.html.
The University Custodian of Public Records (the "Custodian"), is the official custodian of public records for the University, including the Health Sciences Center and the branch campuses. Information on the University's Public Records website explains how to contact the Custodian. The Custodian is responsible for:
- responding to all requests to inspect public records;
- determining whether requested records exist and where they are located, and working with the Office of University Counsel about any apparent legal issues related to producing records for inspection and possible denials of requests;
- providing proper and reasonable opportunities to inspect public records, including assembling the records as appropriate;
- scheduling facilities for inspection of public records during usual business hours;
- consulting with counsel for the University or for STC.UNM regarding any requests that might involve disclosure of trade secrets or attorney-client privileged information related to intellectual property; and
- maintaining a log of all requests that include the date and nature of the request, a copy of the request, any correspondence relating to the request, date of the response, copies of all documents made available in the response, and any other pertinent information.
Only the Custodian, or a designee of the Custodian, may respond to requests for public records, except for requests for medical records or student records as specified in Section 2. herein.
5. Procedure for Requesting Public Records
Individuals who want to inspect public records of the University must submit a request to the Custodian, identifying the records sought with reasonable particularity. Requests for public records must be made in writing. A written request must include the requester's name, address and telephone number. No person requesting records shall be required to state the reason for inspecting the records. Any University employee who receives a request for inspection of public records shall promptly forward the request to the Custodian and notify the requester that the request has been forwarded.
5.1. Notification that Information Has Been Requested
If an IPRA request seeks information relating specifically to a particular individual or to a small number of individuals, such as a current or former employee or student or an applicant for employment, the Custodian will make a best effort to promptly give notice to each such individual of the request and the name of the requester. Such notice may be given by any means (including, for example, by telephone, e-mail, or postal mail) that appears under the circumstances to be reasonably calculated to impart prompt actual notice to each individual who is the subject of the request. No individual who has been so notified may prevent the Custodian from releasing the requested information if that information is subject to public inspection under IPRA.
5.2. Time Required for Compliance
The time requirements in this section reflect the requirements of IPRA, and are based on the date when the written request is delivered to the office of the Custodian. If the records sought are subject to public inspection under IPRA, the Custodian shall permit inspection sought by a written request immediately or as soon as is practicable under the circumstances, but not later than fifteen (15) days after receiving such written request. Excessively burdensome or broad requests where compiling or copying documents may be unduly time consuming or difficult may require more than fifteen (15) calendar days. In such cases, the Custodian shall notify the requester within fifteen (15) calendar days of the need for additional time, the reason for the delay, and the date the records will be available for inspection. If the University does not respond to the requester within fifteen (15) calendar days, the request will be deemed to have been denied and the requester may seek judicial remedies under IPRA. For this reason, it is critical that written requests for public records be forwarded to the Custodian immediately as specified in Section 4. above.
5.3. Cost of Providing Records
As permitted by IPRA, the University will normally charge for copying records in accordance with the fee schedule published by the Custodian. If the estimated cost exceeds ten dollars ($10), the Custodian should provide an estimate of the charges and may require advance payment before making copies. If the University determines the information primarily benefits the general public, the University may waive or reduce the charges. The University may require payment of overdue balances before processing additional requests from the same requester.
As of July 1, 2016, fees for hard copies are as follows:
- 35 cents per page for 8 ½” by 11”
- $1 per page for 8 ½” by 14”
- $1 per page for 11” by 17”
Charges for electronic records are based on the actual costs associated with downloading copies, plus the cost of the storage device:
- 35 cents per page (in excess of 20 pages) to a computer disk, thumb drive or other storage device
- 35 cents for a computer disk
- $2.75 for audio tapes
- $6.75 for a thumb drive
Any postage or other costs associated with transmission of copies will be charged to the requestor:
- Mail: $1 per page, plus postage
- Air Express: actual cost
- Facsimile (fax): 25 cents per page
Advanced payment of fees, either by cash or credit card, must be paid before copies are provided. Cash payments must be made to the UNM Cashier’s Office located in the Perovich Business Center, Suite 1100, on the southwest corner of Lomas and Universities Boulevards. Credit card payments can be made online through the online request portal.
6. Denial of Request
If a written request is denied, in whole or in part, the Custodian must deliver to the requester a written explanation no later than fifteen (15) calendar days after the Custodian received the written request. The explanation of denial must describe the records sought, the legal reason for the denial, the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial, and the requester's right to pursue the remedies provided in IPRA. When a request is denied, the requested records must be retained until remedies under IPRA have been exhausted. Before a determination is made to deny a request, the Custodian shall consult with the Office of University Counsel to determine whether denial of the request is permissible under IPRA and other University policies, including without limitation, RPM 2.17 ("Public Access to University Records").
7. References and Related Information