The Vermont Statutes Online
COMMON LAW; GENERAL RIGHTS
ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS
317. Definitions; public agency; public records and documents
(a) As used in
"Business day" means a day that a public agency is open to provide
agency" or "agency" means any agency, board, department, commission,
committee, branch, instrumentality, or authority of the State or any agency,
board, committee, department, branch, instrumentality, commission, or authority
of any political subdivision of the State.
(b) As used in
this subchapter, "public record" or "public document" means
any written or recorded information, regardless of physical form or
characteristics, which is produced or acquired in the course of public agency
business. Individual salaries and benefits of and salary schedules relating to elected
or appointed officials and employees of public agencies shall not be exempt
from public inspection and copying.
following public records are exempt from public inspection and copying:
which by law are designated confidential or by a similar term.
which by law may only be disclosed to specifically designated persons.
which, if made public pursuant to this subchapter, would cause the custodian to
violate duly adopted standards of ethics or conduct for any profession
regulated by the State.
which, if made public pursuant to this subchapter, would cause the custodian to
violate any statutory or common law privilege other than the common law
deliberative process privilege as it applies to the General Assembly and the
Executive Branch agencies of the State of Vermont.
dealing with the detection and investigation of crime, but only to the extent
that the production of such records:
reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings;
deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;
reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal
reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source,
including a state, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private
institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the
case of a record or information compiled by criminal law enforcement authority
in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful
national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a
disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions,
or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecution
if such disclosure could reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the
reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
Notwithstanding subdivision (A) of this subdivision (5), records relating to
management and direction of a law enforcement agency; records reflecting the
initial arrest of a person, including any ticket, citation, or complaint issued
for a traffic violation, as that term is defined in 23 V.S.A. § 2302; and
records reflecting the charge of a person shall be public.
(C) It is the
intent of the General Assembly that in construing subdivision (A) of this
subdivision (5), the courts of this State will be guided by the construction of
similar terms contained in 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7) (Freedom of Information Act) by
the courts of the United States.
(D) It is the
intent of the General Assembly that, consistent with the manner in which courts
have interpreted subdivision (A) of this subdivision (5), a public agency shall
not reveal information that could be used to facilitate the commission of a
crime or the identity of a private individual who is a witness to or victim of
a crime, unless withholding the identity or information would conceal
government wrongdoing. A record shall not be withheld in its entirety because
it contains identities or information that have been redacted pursuant to this
(6) A tax return
and related documents, correspondence and certain types of substantiating forms
which include the same type of information as in the tax return itself filed
with or maintained by the Vermont Department of Taxes or submitted by a person
to any public agency in connection with agency business.
documents relating to an individual, including information in any files
maintained to hire, evaluate, promote, or discipline any employee of a public
agency, information in any files relating to personal finances, medical or
psychological facts concerning any individual or corporation; provided,
however, that all information in personnel files of an individual employee of
any public agency shall be made available to that individual employee or his or
her designated representative.
questions, scoring keys, and other examination instruments or data used to
administer a license, employment, or academic examination.
secrets, meaning confidential business records or information, including any
formulae, plan, pattern, process, tool, mechanism, compound, procedure,
production data, or compilation of information which is not patented, which a
commercial concern makes efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to
keep secret, and which gives its user or owner an opportunity to obtain
business advantage over competitors who do not know it or use it, except that
the disclosures required by 18 V.S.A. § 4632 are not exempt under this
(10) Lists of
names compiled or obtained by a public agency when disclosure would violate a
person's right to privacy or produce public or private gain; provided, however,
that this section does not apply to lists which are by law made available to
the public, or to lists of professional or occupational licensees.
records, including records of a home study student; provided, however, that
such records shall be made available upon request under the provisions of the
Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g,
as may be amended.
(12) Records concerning
formulation of policy where such would constitute a clearly unwarranted
invasion of personal privacy, if disclosed.
pertaining to the location of real or personal property for public agency
purposes prior to public announcement of the project and information pertaining
to appraisals or purchase price of real or personal property for public
purposes prior to the formal award of contracts thereof.
which are relevant to litigation to which the public agency is a party of
record, provided all such matters shall be available to the public after ruled
discoverable by the court before which the litigation is pending, but in any
event upon final termination of the litigation.
relating specifically to negotiation of contracts including collective
bargaining agreements with public employees.
voluntary information provided by an individual, corporation, organization,
partnership, association, trustee, estate, or any other entity in the State of
Vermont, which has been gathered prior to the enactment of this subchapter,
shall not be considered a public document.
(17) Records of
interdepartmental and intradepartmental communications in any county, city,
town, village, town school district, incorporated school district, union school
district, consolidated water district, fire district, or any other political
subdivision of the State to the extent that they cover other than primarily
factual materials and are preliminary to any determination of policy or action or
precede the presentation of the budget at a meeting held in accordance with
section 312 of this title.
(18) Records of
the Office of Internal Investigation of the Department of Public Safety, except
as provided in 20 V.S.A. § 1923.
relating to the identity of library patrons or the identity of library patrons
in regard to library patron registration records and patron transaction records
in accordance with 22 V.S.A. chapter 4.
that would reveal the location of archeological sites and underwater historic
properties, except as provided in 22 V.S.A. § 761.
(21) Lists of
names compiled or obtained by Vermont Life magazine for the purpose of
developing and maintaining a subscription list, which list may be sold or
rented in the sole discretion of Vermont Life magazine, provided that such
discretion is exercised in furtherance of that magazine's continued financial
viability, and is exercised pursuant to specific guidelines adopted by the
editor of the magazine.
(23) Any data,
records, or information produced or acquired by or on behalf of faculty, staff,
employees, or students of the University of Vermont or the Vermont State
Colleges in the conduct of study, research, or creative efforts on medical,
scientific, technical, scholarly, or artistic matters, whether such activities
are sponsored alone by the institution or in conjunction with a governmental
body or private entity, until such data, records, or information are published,
disclosed in an issued patent, or publicly released by the institution or its
authorized agents. This subdivision applies to, but is not limited to, research
notes and laboratory notebooks, lecture notes, manuscripts, creative works,
correspondence, research proposals and agreements, methodologies, protocols,
and the identities of or any personally identifiable information about
participants in research. This subdivision shall not exempt records, other than
research protocols, produced or acquired by an institutional animal care and
use committee regarding the committee's compliance with State law or federal
law regarding or regulating animal care.
(24) Records of,
or internal materials prepared for, the deliberations of any public agency
acting in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity.
access codes, user identifications, security procedures, and similar
information the disclosure of which would threaten the safety of persons or the
security of public property.
and records provided to the Department of Financial Regulation by a person for
the purposes of having the Department assist that person in resolving a dispute
with any person regulated by the Department, and any information or records
provided by a person in connection with the dispute.
and records provided to the Department of Public Service by an individual for
the purposes of having the Department assist that individual in resolving a
dispute with a utility regulated by the Department, or by the utility or any
other person in connection with the individual's dispute.
(28) Records of,
and internal materials prepared for, independent external reviews of health
care service decisions pursuant to 8 V.S.A. § 4089f and of mental health care
service decisions pursuant to 8 V.S.A. § 4089a.
(29) The records
in the custody of the Secretary of State of a participant in the address
Confidentiality Program described in 15 V.S.A. chapter 21, subchapter 3, except
as provided in that subchapter.
State-controlled database structures and application code, including the
vermontvacation.com website and Travel Planner application, which are known
only to certain State departments engaging in marketing activities and which
give the State an opportunity to obtain a marketing advantage over any other
state, regional, or local governmental or nonprofit quasi-governmental entity,
or private sector entity, unless any such State department engaging in
marketing activities determines that the license or other voluntary disclosure
of such materials is in the State's best interests.
(31) Records of
a registered voter's month and day of birth, motor vehicle operator's license
number, and the last four digits of the applicant's Social Security number
contained in an application to the statewide voter checklist or the statewide
voter checklist established under 17 V.S.A. § 2154.
respect to publicly owned, managed, or leased structures, and only to the
extent that release of information contained in the record would present a
substantial likelihood of jeopardizing the safety of persons or the security of
public property, final building plans, and as-built plans, including drafts of
security systems within a facility, that depict the internal layout and
structural elements of buildings, facilities, infrastructures, systems, or
other structures owned, operated, or leased by an agency before, on, or after
the effective date of this provision; emergency evacuation, escape, or other
emergency response plans that have not been published for public use; and
vulnerability assessments, operation and security manuals, plans, and security
codes. For purposes of this subdivision, "system" shall include
electrical, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, telecommunication,
elevator, and security systems. Information made exempt by this subdivision may
be disclosed to another governmental entity if disclosure is necessary for the
receiving entity to perform its duties and responsibilities; to a licensed
architect, engineer, or contractor who is bidding on or performing work on or
related to buildings, facilities, infrastructures, systems, or other structures
owned, operated, or leased by the State. The entities or persons receiving such
information shall maintain the exempt status of the information. Such
information may also be disclosed by order of a court of competent
jurisdiction, which may impose protective conditions on the release of such
information as it deems appropriate. Nothing in this subdivision shall preclude
or limit the right of the General Assembly or its committees to examine such
information in carrying out its responsibilities or to subpoena such
information. In exercising the exemption set forth in this subdivision and
denying access to information requested, the custodian of the information shall
articulate the grounds for the denial.
(33) The account
numbers for bank, debit, charge, and credit cards held by an agency or its
employees on behalf of the agency.
of income and assets as provided in 15 V.S.A. § 662 and Rule 4 of the Vermont
Rules for Family Proceedings.
plans and summaries submitted for the purposes of complying with 8 V.S.A. §
provided to the Department of Health pursuant to the Patient Safety
Surveillance and Improvement System established by 18 V.S.A. chapter 43a.
that include prescription information containing data that could be used to
identify a prescriber, except that the records shall be made available upon
request for medical research, consistent with and for purposes expressed in 18
V.S.A. § 4622 or 9410, 18 V.S.A. chapter 84 or 84A, and for other law
held by the Agency of Human Services or the Department of Financial Regulation,
which include prescription information containing patient-identifiable data,
that could be used to identify a patient.
(40) Records of
genealogy provided in an application or in support of an application for tribal
recognition pursuant to chapter 23 of this title.
reviewed by the Victims Compensation Board for purposes of approving an
application for compensation pursuant to 13 V.S.A. chapter 167, except as
provided by 13 V.S.A. §§ 5358a(b) and 7043(c).
(42) Except as
otherwise provided by law, information that could be used to identify a
complainant who alleges that a public agency, a public employee or official, or
a person providing goods or services to a public agency under contract has
engaged in a violation of law, or in waste, fraud, or abuse of authority, or in
an act creating a threat to health or safety, unless the complainant consents
to disclosure of his or her identity.
(d) On or before
December 1, 2015, the Office of Legislative Council shall compile a list of all
Public Records Act exemptions found in the Vermont Statutes Annotated. In
compiling the list, the Office of Legislative Council shall consult with the
Attorney General's office. The list shall be updated no less often than every
two years, and shall be arranged by subject area, and in order by title and
section number. The list, and any updates thereto, shall be posted on the
websites of the General Assembly, the Secretary of State's Office, the Attorney
General's Office, and the State Library, and shall be sent to the Vermont
League of Cities and Towns. (Added 1975, No. 231 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended
1977, No. 202 (Adj. Sess.); 1979, No. 156 (Adj. Sess.), § 6; 1981, No. 227
(Adj. Sess.), § 4; 1989, No. 28, § 2; 1989, No. 136 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1995,
No. 46, §§ 23, 58; 1995, No. 159 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; No. 167 (Adj. Sess.), § 29;
No. 182 (Adj. Sess.), § 21, eff. May 22, 1996; No. 180 (Adj. Sess.), § 38; No.
190 (Adj. Sess.), § 1(a); 1997, No. 159 (Adj. Sess.), § 12, eff. April 29,
1998; 1999, No. 134 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Jan. 1, 2001; 2001, No. 28, § 9,
eff. May 21, 2001; 2001, No. 76 (Adj. Sess.), § 3, eff. Feb. 19, 2002; No. 78
(Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. Apr. 3, 2002; 2003, No. 59, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 2006;
2003, No. 63, § 29, eff. June 11, 2003; 2003, No. 107 (Adj. Sess.), § 14; 2003,
No. 146 (Adj. Sess.), § 6, eff. Jan. 1, 2005; 2003, No. 158 (Adj. Sess.), § 2;
2003, No. 159 (Adj. Sess.), § 12; 2005, No. 132 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 2005, No.
179 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 2005, No. 215 (Adj. Sess.), § 326; 2007, No. 80, § 18;
2007, No. 110 (Adj. Sess.), § 3; 2007, No. 129 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 2009, No. 59,
§ 5; 2009, No. 107 (Adj. Sess.), § 5, eff. May 14, 2010; 2011, No. 59, § 3;
2011, No. 78 (Adj. Sess.), § 2, eff. April 2, 2012; 2011, No. 145 (Adj. Sess.),
§ 8, eff. May 15, 2012; 2013, No. 70, § 1; 2013, No. 129 (Adj. Sess.), § 1;
2013, No. 194 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 17, 2014; 2015, No. 23, § 2; 2015,
No. 29, §§ 2, 3, 6, 23; 2015, No. 30, § 3, eff. May 26, 2015.)