U Memo 24-06

Posted on Mar 11, 2024 in Informal Opinions - UIPA Opinions

U Memo 24-06
March 11, 2024
No Further Search Required for Records Purged
After Requester Abandoned His First Request

In 2014, Requester appealed the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (DCR) denial of his request to access records related to his employment application earlier that year.  OIP issued a memorandum opinion dated June 28, 2021, which concluded that DCR should disclose nearly all of the records to Requester.  On July 13, 2014, DCR sent a written notice to Requester informing him that he could access the records upon payment of copying costs.  Requester failed to respond to DCR’s notice for over two years.   

When Requester contacted DCR in September 2020, he was informed that his record request was deemed abandoned pursuant to section 2-71-16(b), HAR, and that its personnel records from 2014 were destroyed pursuant to its file retention policy.  Requester filed a second appeal to OIP, claiming that DCR should not have destroyed the records when his request was “pending” and that DCR should continue to search for the purged records.    

After OIP discovered that it had inadvertently retained copies of Requester’s employment related records that were previously sent by DCR for its in camera review in the first appeal, they were returned to DCR and disclosed to Requester.  Despite receiving the records, Requester questioned whether DCR conducted a reasonable search and properly considered his request to have been abandoned, and should still continue to search for records that DCR had purged.   

OIP found that DCR correctly considered Requester’s record request to be abandoned after he waited over two years to respond to DCR’s notice.  OIP also found that DCR reasonably searched for the records when it looked for them in places where its personnel records were kept, and there is no need for DCR to continue searching for records that it claims were purged in 2019 in accordance with its retention policy.  Because there is no requirement under the UIPA for agencies to keep a record of how long records are maintained or when documents are destroyed, DCR’s records retention policy is outside the scope of OIP’s authority.