U Memo 22-01

Posted on Dec 15, 2021 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 22-01
December 15, 2021
Reasonable Search for Records that Don’t Exist

A record requester (Requester) made a request to a Senator’s office for a copy of a written request by the Senator to the Department of the Attorney General (AG) for legal advice regarding a bill from the 2020 regular legislative session (SB 2462).  The Senator’s office denied the request on the basis that the requested record does not exist.  Requester appealed the denial to OIP.

Normally, when an agency’s response to a record request states that no responsive records exist and that response is appealed, OIP assesses whether the agency’s search for a responsive record was reasonable.  OIP Op. Ltr. No. 97-8 at 4-6.  A reasonable search is one “reasonably calculated to uncover all relevant documents,” and an agency must make “a good faith effort to conduct a search for the requested records, using methods which can be reasonably expected to produce the information requested.”   Id. at 5 (citations omitted).

OIP found that, based on the evidence provided, the Senator’s office conducted a reasonable search of the email accounts and files in its office for a written request to the AG for legal advice on SB 2462 and could not locate one.  OIP therefore concluded that the Senator’s Office’s response that it does not maintain the record was proper.