Division II - Technicalities and Supplements While Claim is Open not Grounds for PRA Suit
Hobbs sought a bunch of documents from the Auditor’s office. They wanted to make sure they gave him everything, as it was a large request, and was processed in installments. As they production went on, they asked him about the redactions they had done, and he communicated with them about disclosure of metadata. They fought a bit in the trial court over the redactions, which the court ruled were properly done. When Hobbs raised the complaints about metadata, they provided supplemental information within one of their installments. Eventually, they finished, and then Hobbs sued under the Public Records Act.
As a threshold matter, the Court of Appeals rules that Hobbs’ first suit was premature. The Auditor’s office was still in the process of responding to the request in installments when Hobbs’ brought the first suit:
Here, there is no dispute that the Auditor was continuing to provide Hobbs with responsive records until March 1, 2012, when the Auditor determined it provided all responsive documents to Hobbs' public records request. Therefore, there could be no " denial" of records forming a basis for judicial review until March 1, 2012. The plain language ofthe statute does not support Hobbs' claim that a requester is permitted to initiate a lawsuit before an agency has taken some form of final action in denying the request by not providing responsive documents.
On similar grounds, the Court held that a redaction or failure to provide metadata, which is corrected before the closure, provides a basis for a lawsuit.
Finally, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the Auditor’s search for records was adequate. It need only be reasonably calculated to lead uncover all documents. Here, the agency underwent a pretty thorough search, including several databases and individuals emails.
Rather, the record shows that the Auditor performed a comprehensive search of its paper and electronic files using numerous terms meant to comprehensively identify records related to the whistleblower complaint and investigation that was the subject ofHobbs' public records request. Simply because Hobbs later identified additional documents he believed fell within the scope of his request does not mean that the Auditor' s search was unreasonable. We hold that the Auditor' s search for records to produce in response to Hobbs' public records request was reasonable, and Hobbs' PRA claim fails.