Public records; right of citizens; full access; fee authorized.
(1) Except when any other statute expressly provides that particular information or records shall not be made public, public records shall include all records and documents, regardless of physical form, of or belonging to this state, any county, city, village, political subdivision, or tax-supported district in this state, or any agency, branch, department, board, bureau, commission, council, subunit, or committee of any of the foregoing. Data which is a public record in its original form shall remain a public record when maintained in computer files.
(2) When a custodian of a public record of a county provides to a member of the public, upon request, a copy of the public record by transmitting it from a modem to an outside modem, a reasonable fee may be charged for such specialized service. Such fee may include a reasonable amount representing a portion of the amortization of the cost of computer equipment, including software, necessarily added in order to provide such specialized service. This subsection shall not be construed to require a governmental entity to acquire computer capability to generate public records in a new or different form when that new form would require additional computer equipment or software not already possessed by the governmental entity.
(3) Sections 84-712 to 84-712.03 shall be liberally construed whenever any state, county, or political subdivision fiscal records, audit, warrant, voucher, invoice, purchase order, requisition, payroll, check, receipt, or other record of receipt, cash, or expenditure involving public funds is involved in order that the citizens of this state shall have the full right to know of and have full access to information on the public finances of the government and the public bodies and entities created to serve them.
Source:Laws 1961, c. 454, § 2, p. 1383; Laws 1979, LB 86, § 2; Laws 1994, LB 1275, § 12; Laws 2000, LB 628, § 2.
If each branch of government could shield its records simply by appealing to the fact that they were created in the course of any number of essential branch functions, then the protections of the public interest embodied in the public records statutes would be a nullity. State ex rel. Veskrna v. Steel, 296 Neb. 581, 894 N.W.2d 788 (2017).
Under subsection (1) of this section, the Judicial Branch Education advisory committee's unwritten policy of keeping its records confidential did not, in light of section 24-205.01, governing the committee's power to develop standards and policies for review by the Nebraska Supreme Court, render such records confidential under the statutory exception to the public records laws for records not to be made public according to this section, although subdivision (2)(a) of section 24-205.01 contemplated promulgation of rules regarding the confidentiality of Judicial Branch Education records, where no such rules had been adopted by the Nebraska Supreme Court. State ex rel. Veskrna v. Steel, 296 Neb. 581, 894 N.W.2d 788 (2017).
Presentence reports are not "public records" under this section. State ex rel. Unger v. State, 293 Neb. 549, 878 N.W.2d 540 (2016).
A four-part functional equivalency test is the appropriate analytical model for determining whether a private entity which has an ongoing relationship with a governmental entity can be considered an agency, branch, or department of such governmental entity within the meaning of subsection (1) of this section, such that its records are subject to disclosure upon request under Nebraska’s public records laws. The factors to be considered in applying this test are (1) whether the private entity performs a governmental function, (2) the level of governmental funding of the private entity, (3) the extent of government involvement with or regulation of the private entity, and (4) whether the private entity was created by the government. Frederick v. City of Falls City, 289 Neb. 864, 857 N.W.2d 569 (2015).
A party seeking a writ of mandamus under section 84-712.03 has the burden to satisfy three elements: (1) The requesting party is a citizen of the state or other person interested in the examination of the public records; (2) the document sought is a public record as defined by this section; and (3) the requesting party has been denied access to the public record as guaranteed by section 84-712. Evertson v. City of Kimball, 278 Neb. 1, 767 N.W.2d 751 (2009).
Subsection (1) of this section does not require a citizen to show that a public body has actual possession of a requested record. Subsection (3) of this section requires that the "of or belonging to" language be construed liberally; this broad definition includes any documents or records that a public body is entitled to possess—regardless of whether the public body takes possession. The public's right of access should not depend on where the requested records are physically located. Evertson v. City of Kimball, 278 Neb. 1, 767 N.W.2d 751 (2009).
Under subsection (1) of this section, the reference to "data" in the last sentence shows that the Legislature intended public records to include a public body's component information, not just its completed reports or documents. Evertson v. City of Kimball, 278 Neb. 1, 767 N.W.2d 751 (2009).
Under this section, requested materials in a private party's possession are public records if the following requirements are met: (1) The public body, through a delegation of its authority to perform a government function, contracted with a private party to carry out the government function; (2) the private party prepared the records under the public body's delegation of authority; (3) the public body was entitled to possess the materials to monitor the private party's performance; and (4) the records are used to make a decision affecting public interest. Evertson v. City of Kimball, 278 Neb. 1, 767 N.W.2d 751 (2009).
Records of deaths that occurred at a state-run mental institution, indicating the place of burial, are public records as defined by this section. State ex rel. Adams Cty. Historical Soc. v. Kinyoun, 277 Neb. 749, 765 N.W.2d 212 (2009).