Contrary to the public interest: A template and tips for your CORA request

Download the CALL7 Investigators' CORA request template: http://ch7ne.ws/CORA-Template

Based on our experience, our staff offers these five tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your CORA request.

1. Call the agency before you file your request to inquire how records are kept. This will help you gage what information is readily available and expedite your request. You may find that an administrator will give you the records and that an open-records request does not need to be filed. Alternately, you may identify exactly what records can be requested through CORA and file accordingly.

2. Be specific. Make sure your request for open records is targeted, seeking information that’s directly pertinent to the issue you’re researching. For instance, specify a definite range of dates or a spreadsheet as it is maintained by the entity you are querying.

3. File several requests, one after the other, instead of just one. Consider piecing together the bigger picture through a series of simple requests. When the first request is met, file the second, and so forth until you’ve completed your research.

4. Argue against fees. When an administrator tells you it will cost a certain amount to meet a request, ask them to justify, line by line, the costs. Ask for documentation. Refer to local and state laws to argue against fees that seem unreasonable. If that fails, look for compromises that would allow you to get the information you seek without a cost. For instance, you can decide to view records instead of asking for copies and bring your smart phone to snap pictures of the documents on your own.   

5. Be persistent. Don’t let your request languish. Remind records administrators as the deadline for meeting your request approaches. Under state law, administrators have three working days to meet a request. They may extend that to 10 days if a request is difficult to meet.

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