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Office of the General Counsel

Public Records

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are public records?

    Section 119.011(12) Florida Statutes, defines "public records" to include:

    • All documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, sound recordings, data processing software, or other material, regardless of the physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission, made or received in connection with the transaction of official business.
    • The Florida Supreme Court has interpreted this definition to encompass all materials made or received in connection with official business that are used to perpetuate, communicate, or formalize knowledge.
  • What records are subject to disclosure under Florida's Public Records Law?

    Virtually any document regarding UNF business, created, received or maintained by UNF, its employees or by its representatives acting in their official capacities is considered a public record and is subject to inspection by the public.

  • What about letters or memoranda marked "confidential"?

    What you name or call the document will not determine whether it is a public record. The content of the document is what matters. Only a specific statutory exemption makes a record confidential and not subject to disclosure.

  • What about documents with one of those big red CONFIDENTIAL stamps on it?

    Again, it is the content, not the big red stamp, that controls whether it is a public document.

  • Are there other "Confidential" yet "Public" documents?

    Yes. Memoranda, letters or e-mails to or from UNF's Office of the General Counsel in preparation for actual or imminent litigation are exempt from public record until the conclusion of any legal proceeding.

  • What about tag lines on e-mail?

    The content of the message controls whether it is a public document.

  • What documents are exempt from disclosure?

    The most common confidential records that are exempt from public disclosure include:

    • Social security numbers
    • Medical information
    • Personnel information prior to July 1, 1995
    • Faculty academic evaluation of job performance
    • Employee disciplinary records while an investigation is in progress
    • Student records under FERPA
    • UNF foundation records regarding cultivation and solicitation of gifts, donor records and information regarding donors.
  • How much of "my" work is a public record?

    Most of it! The limited exemptions for "personal" work include:

    • Personal notes which are neither distributed to others nor filed as a permanent record
    • Personal notes which are kept solely for the purpose of refreshing your memory
    • Drafts you prepare but are not circulated
    • Documents you prepare containing confidential exempt information.
  • Is there an exception for "working drafts"?

    No. While portions of your "personal" work may be exempt, please understand the following:

    • One "personal" work is circulated for "review" or "comment" by others, it is public record.
    • Once circulated, "preliminary" or "working drafts" are considered to "perpetuate, communicate, or formalize knowledge" about University business and are subject to disclosure.
  • Are there any other exemptions?

    Yes. There are many public records exemptions which can be found in Section 119.071, Florida Statutes, as well as other Florida Statutes.  Some exemptions are very specific while others are broad.  An example of a common exemption is for certain personal information for positions identified in Section 119.071(4), Florida Statues, such as law enforcement personnel, are exempt from public records requests.  These position specific exemptions also apply to spouses and children of persons holding a position identified in the statute.  Please contact Human Resources at to determine if any of these exemptions apply to you. Another exemption in the university setting is for examination and assessment materials.

  • What are "transitory messages"?

    Transitory messages are:

    • Records created primarily for the communication of information that are not for the perpetuation of knowledge.
    • Records that do not set policy, establish guidelines or procedures, certify a transaction, or become a receipt.
    • Transitory messages may be deleted when they re obsolete, superseded, or their administrative value is lost.
  • Can you give me some examples of transitory messages?

    Examples include: e-mail messages with short-lived, or no administrative value; voice mail, self-sticking notes, telephone messages, and messages setting meetings or appointments.

  • How are public records accessed?

    By a "public records request".

  • Who can make a public records request?

    Any person, even a non-resident of Florida.

  • How are these requests made?

    They can be verbal, written or e-mailed.

  • What is the requestor entitled to?

    The requestor can inspect and copy any public record which is not exempt from disclosure.

  • Does the requestor need to state a reason to inspect the public records?

    No. The requestor has a right to conduct inspect and copy any public record. A requestor's motive is irrelevant and the requestor does not have to tell you why he or she wants the records.

  • What should I consider first when I receive a public records request?
    • Is it clear what the requestor wants?
    • Do I need to call the Office of the General Counsel for advice?
    • Do any exemptions apply to the records request?
    • Will there be a need to redact confidential information from the records to be produced?
  • What does "redact" mean?

    Redact means to "mark through" or "white out" exempt and/or confidential information.

  • How long do I have to respond to a public records request?

    UNF has a "reasonable" amount of time to respond to a public records request.  "Reasonable" is not specifically defined and depends on factors such as the nature of the records requested and the volume of records requested.

  • Can I charge the requestor when I provide the public records?

    Yes. The records custodian can charge the requestor for:

    • The cost of labor for retrieving and redacting records if the records requested involve an extensive amount of work or an extensive use of technical resources to retrieve.
    • UNF can also charge for the actual cost of duplication ($.15 per copy, $.20 for double-sided copies and $1.00 per certified copy).
  • What is not required when responding to a public records request?
    • No requirement to create records.
    • No requirement to provide the records in the format requested.
    • No requirement to meet requestor's "timetable".
    • No requirements to provide information not in the records.
    • No requirement to explain the records or answer a requestor's questions.
  • Are their any penalties for not complying with the Public Records law?

    Yes, the penalties for knowingly failing to comply with the public records law are:

    For the University:

    • Attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party if a lawsuit is filed.

    For the employee:

    • Potential criminal conviction, including up to $1,000.00 fine and serving 1 year in jail
  • How long do I have to retain public records?
    • Must be maintained in accordance with destruction schedules promulgated by the Division of Library and Information Services.  
    • Most records must be maintained for at least 3 years, except those that are transitory,however this depends on the specific record.
    • You can also review the University's Records Management website for further information, which includes a link to the Secretary of State General Records Schedules for Universities and Communities Colleges as well as state and local government agencies. 
  • Are my e-mails subject to disclosure?

    Yes. E-mail messages made or received by UNF employees in connection with official business are public records and subject to disclosure. Anyone, including newspapers and other media, can access the University's public records; therefore, what you e-mail today could be tomorrow's headline or lead story. Consequently, if you wouldn't want others to read it, don't send it.

  • Any other e-mail tips you can give me?


    • Trust your instincts - if you are concerned that what you want to e-mail shouldn't be viewed by others - don't send it.
    • Picking up the telephone instead may be the better choice.
    • If you wouldn't say it to someone, you may not want to e-mail it.
  • What if I have more questions regarding Florida's Public Records Law?

    Please contact

    Office of the General Counsel

    1 UNF Drive

    J.J. Daniel Hall

    Building 1, Room 2100

    Jacksonville, Florida, 32224

    (904) 620-2828

    You can also try the following website

    Florida Government-in-the-Sunshine Law

    Chapter 119, Florida Statutes