The Public Records Act
MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972
CHAPTER 61. PUBLIC RECORDS
Section 25-61-1. Short Title
Section 25-61-2. Policy
Section 25-61-3. Definitions
Section 25-61-5. Public Access to Records; Denials
Section 25-61-7. Fees Incident to Providing Records
Section 25-61-9. Records Furnished by Third Parties
Section 25-61-10. Use of Sensitive Software
Section 25-61-11. Exempted or Privileged Records
Section 25-61-12. Personal Information of Law Enforcement or Court Personnel and Officers; Exemption from Public Records Act; Exception
Section 25-61-13. Proceedings to Compel Public Access
Section 25-61-15. Penalty
Section 25-61-17. Construction; Legislative Proceedings and Public Access
Section 25-61-19. Posting of Legislative Updates on Websites; State Agencies and Departments
§ 25-61-1. Short Title
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the "Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983." It is the policy of the Legislature that public records must be available for inspection by any person unless otherwise provided by this act [Laws, 1996, ch. 453]. Furthermore, providing access to public records is a duty of each public body and automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each agency increases its use of and dependence on electronic record keeping, each agency must ensure reasonable access to records electronically maintained, subject to the rules of records retention.
§ 25-61-2. Policy
It is the policy of this state that public records shall be available for inspection by any person unless otherwise provided by this chapter; furthermore, providing access to public records is a duty of each public body and automation of public records must not erode the right of access to those records. As each public body increases its use of, and dependence on, electronic record keeping, each public body must ensure reasonable access to records electronically maintained, subject to records retention.
§ 25-61-3. Definitions
The following words shall have the meanings ascribed herein unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(a) "Public body" shall mean any department, bureau, division, council, commission, committee, subcommittee, board, agency and any other entity of the state or a political subdivision thereof, and any municipal corporation and any other entity created by the Constitution or by law, executive order, ordinance or resolution. The term "public body" includes the governing board of a charter school authorized by the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board. Within the meaning of this chapter, the term "entity" shall not be construed to include individuals employed by a public body or any appointed or elected public official.
(b) "Public records" shall mean all books, records, papers, accounts, letters, maps, photographs, films, cards, tapes, recordings or reproductions thereof, and any other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristics, having been used, being in use, or prepared, possessed or retained for use in the conduct, transaction or performance of any business, transaction, work, duty or function of any public body, or required to be maintained by any public body.
(c) "Data processing software" means the programs and routines used to employ and control the capabilities of data processing hardware, including, but not limited to, operating systems, compilers, assemblers, utilities, library routines, maintenance routines, applications and computer networking programs.
(d) "Proprietary software" means data processing software that is obtained under a licensing agreement and is protected by copyright or trade secret laws.
(e) "Incident report" means a narrative description, if such narrative description exists and if such narrative description does not contain investigative information, of an alleged offense, and at a minimum shall include the name and identification of each person charged with and arrested for the alleged offense, the time, date and location of the alleged offense, and the property involved, to the extent this information is known.
(f) "Investigative report" means records of a law enforcement agency containing information beyond the scope of the matters contained in an incident report, and generally will include, but not be limited to, the following matters if beyond the scope of the matters contained in an incident report:
(i) Records that are compiled in the process of detecting and investigating any unlawful activity or alleged unlawful activity, the disclosure of which would harm the investigation which may include crime scene reports and demonstrative evidence;
(ii) Records that would reveal the identity of informants and/or witnesses;
(iii) Records that would prematurely release information that would impede the public body's enforcement, investigative or detection efforts;
(iv) Records that would disclose investigatory techniques and/or results of investigative techniques;
(v) Records that would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
(vi) Records that would endanger the life or safety of a public official or law enforcement personnel, or confidential informants or witnesses;
(vii) Records pertaining to quality control or PEER review activities; or
(viii) Records that would impede or jeopardize a prosecutor's ability to prosecute the alleged offense.
(g) "Law enforcement agency" means a public body that performs as one (1) of its principal functions activities pertaining to the enforcement of criminal laws, the apprehension and investigation of criminal offenders, or the investigation of criminal activities.
§ 25-61-5. Public Access to Records; Denials
(a) Except as otherwise provided by Sections 25-61-9 and 25-61-11, all public records are hereby declared to be public property, and any person shall have the right to inspect, copy or mechanically reproduce or obtain a reproduction of any public record of a public body in accordance with reasonable written procedures adopted by the public body concerning the cost, time, place and method of access, and public notice of the procedures shall be given by the public body, or, if a public body has not adopted written procedures, the right to inspect, copy or mechanically reproduce or obtain a reproduction of a public record of the public body shall be provided within one (1) working day after a written request for a public record is made. No public body shall adopt procedures which will authorize the public body to produce or deny production of a public record later than seven (7) working days from the date of the receipt of the request for the production of the record.
(b) If a public body is unable to produce a public record by the seventh working day after the request is made, the public body must provide a written explanation to the person making the request stating that the record requested will be produced and specifying with particularity why the records cannot be produced within the seven-day period. Unless there is mutual agreement of the parties, or the information requested is part of ongoing negotiations related to a request for competitive sealed proposals, in no event shall the date for the public body's production of the requested records be any later than fourteen (14) working days from the receipt by the public body of the original request. Production of competitive sealed proposals in accordance with requests made pursuant to this section shall be no later than seven (7) working days after the notice of intent to award is issued to the winning proposer. Persons making a request for production of competitive sealed proposals after the notice of intent to award is issued by the public body shall have a reasonable amount of time, but in no event less than seven (7) working days after the production of the competitive sealed proposals, to protest the procurement or intended award prior to contract execution.
(2) If any public record contains material which is not exempted under this chapter, the public agency shall redact the exempted material and make the nonexempted material available for examination. Such public agency shall be entitled to charge a reasonable fee for the redaction of any exempted material, not to exceed the agency's actual cost.
(3) Denial by a public body of a request for access to or copies of public records under this chapter shall be in writing and shall contain a statement of the specific exemption relied upon by the public body for the denial. Each public body shall maintain a file of all denials of requests for public records. Public bodies shall be required to preserve such denials on file for not less than three (3) years from the date such denials are made. This file shall be made available for inspection or copying, or both, during regular office hours to any person upon written request.
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, each public body may establish and collect fees reasonably calculated to reimburse it for, and in no case to exceed, the actual cost of searching, reviewing and/or duplicating and, if applicable, mailing copies of public records. Any staff time or contractual services included in actual cost shall be at the pay scale of the lowest level employee or contractor competent to respond to the request. Such fees shall be collected by the public body in advance of complying with the request.
(2) A public body may establish a standard fee scale to reimburse it for the costs of creating, acquiring and maintaining a geographic information system or multipurpose cadastre as authorized and defined under Section 25-61-1 et seq., or any other electronically accessible data. Such fees must be reasonably related to the costs of creating, acquiring and maintaining the geographic information system, multipurpose cadastre or other electronically accessible data, for the data or information contained therein or taken therefrom and for any records, papers, accounts, maps, photographs, films, cards, tapes, recordings or other materials, data or information relating thereto, whether in printed, digital or other format. In determining the fees or charges under this subsection, the public body may consider the type of information requested, the purpose or purposes for which the information has been requested and the commercial value of the information.
§ 25-61-9. Records Furnished by Third Parties
(a) Records furnished to public bodies by third parties which contain trade secrets or confidential commercial or financial information shall not be subject to inspection, examination, copying or reproduction under this chapter until notice to third parties has been given, but the records shall be released no later than twenty-one (21) days from the date the third parties are given notice by the public body unless the third parties have filed in chancery court a petition seeking a protective order on or before the expiration of the twenty-one-day time period. Any party seeking the protective order shall give notice to the party requesting the information in accordance with the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.
(b) If a court determines that a person or entity has made duplicative requests for public records that are the subject of a protective order under paragraph (a) of this subsection, the court shall order the requesting person or entity to reimburse the third party’s costs and attorney’s fees for seeking additional protective orders for the same or substantially similar requests for public records.
(2) If any public record which is held to be exempt from disclosure pursuant to this chapter contains material which is not exempt pursuant to this chapter, the public body shall separate the exempt material and make the nonexempt material available for examination or copying, or both, as provided for in this chapter.
(3) Trade secrets and confidential commercial and financial information of a proprietary nature developed by a college, university or public hospital under contract with a firm, business, partnership, association, corporation, individual or other like entity shall not be subject to inspection, examination, copying or reproduction under this chapter.
(4) Misappropriation of a trade secret shall be governed by the provisions of the Mississippi Uniform Trade Secrets Act, Sections 75-26-1 through 75-26-19.
(5) A waste minimization plan and any updates developed by generators and facility operators under the Mississippi Comprehensive Multimedia Waste Minimization Act of 1990 shall be retained at the facility and shall not be subject to inspection, examination, copying or reproduction under this chapter.
(6) Data processing software obtained by an agency under a licensing agreement that prohibits its disclosure and which software is a trade secret, as defined in Section 75-26-3, and data processing software produced by a public body which is sensitive must not be subject to inspection, copying or reproduction under this chapter.
As used in this subsection, "sensitive" means only those portions of data processing software, including the specifications and documentation, used to:
(a) Collect, process, store, and retrieve information which is exempt under this chapter.
(b) Control and direct access authorizations and security measures for automated systems.
(c) Collect, process, store, and retrieve information, disclosure of which would require a significant intrusion into the business of the public body.
(7) For all procurement contracts awarded by state agencies, the provisions of the contract which contain the commodities purchased or the personal or professional services provided, the price to be paid, and the term of the contract shall not be deemed to be a trade secret or confidential commercial or financial information under this section, and shall be available for examination, copying or reproduction as provided for in this chapter. Any party seeking a protective order for a procurement contract awarded by state agencies shall give notice to and provide the reasons for the protective order to the party requesting the information in accordance with the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. The notice and reasons for the protective order must be posted on the Mississippi procurement portal for a minimum of seven (7) days before filing the petition seeking the protective order in chancery court. Any party seeking a protective order in violation of this subsection may be barred by a state agency from submitting bids, proposals or qualifications for procurement for a period not to exceed five (5) years.
§ 25-61-10. Use of Sensitive Software
(1) Except as otherwise provided in Section 25-61-11.2, any public body that uses sensitive software, as defined in Section 25-61-9, or proprietary software must not thereby diminish the right of the public to inspect and copy a public record. A public body that uses sensitive software, as defined in Section 25-61-9, or proprietary software to store, manipulate, or retrieve a public record will not be deemed to have diminished the right of the public if it either:
(a) If legally obtainable, makes a copy of the software available to the public for application to the public records stored, manipulated, or retrieved by the software; or
(b) Ensures that the software has the capacity to create an electronic copy of each public record stored, manipulated, or retrieved by the software in some common format such as, but not limited to, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange.
(2) A public body shall provide a copy of the record in the format requested if the public body maintains the record in that format, and the public body may charge a fee which must be in accordance with Section 25-61-7.
(3) Before a public body acquires or makes a major modification to any information technology system, equipment, or software used to store, retrieve, or manipulate a public record, the public body shall adequately plan for the provision of public access and redaction of exempt or confidential information by the proposed system, equipment or software.
(4) A public body may not enter into a contract for the creation or maintenance of a public records data base if that contract impairs the ability of the public to inspect or copy the public records of that agency, including public records that are online or stored in an information technology system used by the public body.
§ 25-61-11. Exempted or Privileged Records
The provisions of this chapter shall not be construed to conflict with, amend, repeal or supersede any constitutional law, state or federal statutory law, or decision of a court of this state or the United States which at the time of this chapter is effective or thereafter specifically declares a public record to be confidential or privileged, or provides that a public record shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
§ 25-61-11.1 Exempted or Private Information of Persons Possessing a Weapon Permit
The name, home address, any telephone number or other private information of any person who possesses a weapon permit issued under Section 45-9-101 or Section 97-37-7 shall be exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.
§ 25-61-11.2 Exempted for Certain Information Technology Records
The following information technology (IT) records shall be exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983:
§ 25-61-12. Personal Information of Law Enforcement or Court Personnel and Officers; Exemption from Public Records Act; Exception
(1) The home address, any telephone number of a privately paid account or other private information of any law enforcement officer, criminal investigator, judge or district attorney or the spouse or child of the law enforcement officer, criminal investigator, judge or district attorney shall be exempt from the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983. This exemption does not apply to any court transcript or recording if given under oath and not otherwise excluded by law.
(a) When in the possession of a law enforcement agency, investigative reports shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter; however, a law enforcement agency, in its discretion, may choose to make public all or any part of any investigative report.
(b) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prevent any and all public bodies from having among themselves a free flow of information for the purpose of achieving a coordinated and effective detection and investigation of unlawful activity. Where the confidentiality of records covered by this section is being determined in a private hearing before a judge under Section 25-61-13, the public body may redact or separate from the records the identity of confidential informants or the identity of the person or persons under investigation or other information other than the nature of the incident, time, date and location.
(c) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to exempt from public disclosure a law enforcement incident report. An incident report shall be a public record. A law enforcement agency may release information in addition to the information contained in the incident report.
(d) Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require the disclosure of information that would reveal the identity of the victim.
(3) Personal information of victims, including victim impact statements and letters of support on behalf of victims that are contained in records on file with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and State Parole Board, shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
(4) Records of a public hospital board relating to the purchase or sale of medical or other practices or other business operations, and the recruitment of physicians and other health care professionals, shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
§ 25-61-13. Proceedings to Compel Public Access
The Mississippi Ethics Commission shall have the authority to enforce the provisions of this chapter upon a complaint filed by any person denied the right granted under Section 25-61-5 to inspect or copy public records. Upon receiving a complaint, the commission shall forward a copy of the complaint to the head of the public body involved. The public body shall have fourteen (14) days from receipt of the complaint to file a response with the commission. After receiving the response to the complaint or, if no response is received after fourteen (14) days, the commission, in its discretion, may dismiss the complaint or proceed by setting a hearing in accordance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission may order the public body and any individual employees or officials of the public body to produce records or take other reasonable measures necessary, if any, to comply with this chapter. The Ethics Commission may also impose penalties as authorized in this chapter. The Ethics Commission may order a public body to produce records for private review by the commission, its staff or designee. The Ethics Commission shall complete its private review of the records within thirty (30) days after receipt of the records from the public body. Records produced to the commission for private review shall remain exempt from disclosure under this chapter while in the custody of the commission.
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit the Ethics Commission from mediating or otherwise resolving disputes arising under this chapter, from issuing an order based on a complaint and response where no facts are in dispute, or from entering orders agreed to by the parties. In carrying out its responsibilities under this section, the Ethics Commission shall have all the powers and authority granted to it in Title 25, Chapter 4, Mississippi Code of 1972, including the authority to promulgate rules and regulations in furtherance of this chapter.
Any party may petition the chancery court of the county in which the public body is located to enforce or appeal any order of the Ethics Commission issued pursuant to this chapter. In any such appeal the chancery court shall conduct a de novo review. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit any party from filing a complaint in any chancery court having jurisdiction, nor shall a party be obligated to exhaust administrative remedies before filing a complaint. However, any party filing such a complaint in chancery court shall serve written notice upon the Ethics Commission at the time of filing the complaint. The written notice is for information only and does not make the Ethics Commission a party to the case.
Any person who shall deny to any person access to any public record which is not exempt from the provisions of this chapter or who charges an unreasonable fee for providing a public record may be liable civilly in his personal capacity in a sum not to exceed One Hundred Dollars ($ 100.00) per violation, plus all reasonable expenses incurred by such person bringing the proceeding.
§ 25-61-19. Posting of Legislative Updates on Websites; State Agencies and Departments
Within sixty (60) days after the end of each regular session of the Legislature, each agency or department of the State of Mississippi shall include on the Internet website of the agency or department a separate section that provides a legislative update on any legislation enacted at the legislative session that revises the powers and duties of the agency or department. The agency or department shall include a link to the legislative update section on the home page of the website. The legislative update section shall contain a summary of the revisions made to the powers and duties of the agency or department by the legislation, and a contact section or link so that members of the public may comment on or ask questions about the revisions or the effect of the revisions in the legislation. The legislative update section shall remain on the website of the agency or department until January 1st of the following year.