Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has issued an opinion that a public entity has an obligation to provide requested records within a reasonable time and to communicate to the requester the reason for any delay in responding.
In November, 2020, the Office of the Governor received a request for records relating to a specific matter. The Governor’s Office provided the records three weeks later. According to the Governor’s Office, it had experienced a significant increase in the number of open record requests since the start of the pandemic, adding to the workload of all employees of the office. As a result, the Governor’s office implemented a process to respond to record requests in the order received.
Given the large volume of requests during an unprecedented time, it was reasonable to implement a process to answer requests in the order received. However, there was no attempt made to explain to the requester that there would be a delay or the reason for the delay. Therefore, the Governor’s office did not provide records within a reasonable time.