Here are the COVID-related reasons major cities are giving to delay records requests

Here are the COVID-related reasons major cities are giving to delay records requests

Many of the 50 largest cities have dropped their emergency orders, but more than a third are still telling requesters that COVID may cause delays in their records requests

Written by
Edited by Michael Morisy

Almost six months since the United States declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 virus, some of the largest cities in the country are still using the pandemic as a reason to delay requests.

A review of responses and notices from the 50 most populous cities in the country shows that 19 of them are still warning requesters of delays due to a reduced workforce, limited access to in-office files, and general strains on resources.

In the initial days of the country’s pandemic response, many states and local emergency orders limited in-person workdays for government employees, cutting their task force to essential workers only and putting a pause on the other business of government. For many, this did include a slowdown on responding to records requests. Some places, like Michigan and San Francisco, specifically availed themselves of the privilege to put delays on responses.

Every state, even the ones with rising COVID-19 case counts, has started the process of reopening following weeks of a quarantine-like shutdown in the spring.

Unfortunately, this does not mean that operations are back in full swing, particularly not when it comes to fulling open records act requests.

Below is a list of the known delays and the COVID-related notices we’ve received from cities:

See something off? Let us know.

Even lacking COVID-related reasons, the usual unexplained record delays are still happening. The Tampa Police Department, for example, has still not acknowledged requests submitted in June, though Ashley Bauman, Director of Marketing & Communications, said that there is no local ordinance that would account for the delays. Follow-up phone calls to the Tampa PD media office have not been returned.

Image via Ian Matyssik on Unsplash