CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A website that tracks public records requests throughout state and local governments will be up and running by Friday, meeting a deadline spelled out in state law, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant said.
Tennant told The Associated Press the website will list agencies, what was requested, when it was requested and who asked for the information. It will say how much agencies charged and whether they partly or entirely granted requests, or denied them, and reasons for denials. It will also include the date that the request was formally completed.
The site won’t include the actual agency records produced in response.
Local and state entities must begin submitting information on requests made Friday and afterward. The law doesn’t include penalties for agencies that don’t comply.
Tennant said the website will provide additional transparency, particularly for requests made during election season. The website was developed in-house by Tennant’s information technology staff.
“I think the general public might be surprised about how much time is used for state agencies getting these FOIA requests because of political campaigns or political motivation,” Tennant said.
The website is required under a law passed by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in April.
It eliminated the ability of agencies to charge for requests based on the man-hours to retrieve the records, a practice that can produce huge tabs for people seeking public information. Other provisions further put the onus on public entities to produce records.
The law also was considered a win for pro-gun groups, since it shielded the names and addresses of people with concealed handgun permits from public disclosure.