Town Policy

Town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina - Policy Regarding Requests for Public Records under the Freedom of Information Act

Policy Statement 

It shall be the policy of the Town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (the “Town”) to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”), as codified at §§ 30-4-10 et seq. of the Code of Laws of South Carolina 1976, as amended, in regards to the processing of requests for access to public records. This Policy is applicable to all departments under the supervision of the Town Administrator, and to any board or commission whose members are appointed by the Town Council, the governing body of the Town (the “Council”).

Making a FOIA Request 

All requests for public documents pursuant to FOIA, except for those described below, must be made in writing, and submitted to the respective department. Requests made to Council Members or Department Heads may be forwarded to the Legal Department, but the requester should not assume they have been forwarded to the appropriate party. If the requester does not receive an acknowledgement of receipt of the FOIA request within 24 hours from the Town Attorney, the requester should assume the FOIA request has not been properly submitted and should make their request again. Requests may be made in person at the Town Hall, 100 Ann Edwards Lane, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464; by mail to Town of Mount Pleasant, Attn: Legal Department. 

Ideally, requests should be made using the Freedom of Information Act Request Form (the “Request Form”) provided by the Town and made available to the public, a copy of which is attached hereto. Requests made by letter or in some other written form shall contain substantially the same information provided for on the Request Form. In order to ensure the most accurate and prompt response, requests should be as detailed, specific, and descriptive as possible.

Requests to inspect the following public records need not be in writing, provided the requestor appears at the appropriate Town office in-person and within normal Town business hours:

  • Reports from the preceding fourteen (14) days which disclose the nature, substance, and location of any crime or alleged crime reported as having been committed (with the exception of records regarding juveniles); and
  • Documents identifying persons confined in any jail, detention center, or prison for the preceding (3) three months (with the exception of records regarding juveniles); and
  • Copy of any document distributed to or reviewed by members of a public body during a public meeting within the last six months.

The Town’s agendas and minutes are immediately available on our website free of charge HERE.

Processing FOIA Requests

Where any Town employee or Council member receives any written request for public records, the request should be stamped with the date of receipt and immediately delivered to the Legal Department. “Routine FOIA requests” may be handled directly by the respective Department Head. All Department Heads shall consult with the Town Attorney on non-routine FOIA requests and on any questions of law involving FOIA. Where an exemption, restriction or limitation to FOIA possibly exists, the Town Attorney should be consulted to determine if an exemption, restriction or limitation applies and whether the Town should decline to disclose or request a hearing for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief based upon any perceived exemption, restriction or limitation.

As required by FOIA, the Town Administrator must respond to all FOIA requests within 10 business days of receipt of the request. It shall be the policy of the Town to respond to FOIA requests as quickly as possible. Where possible, the response to the request should include the requested records. Otherwise, the response should either inform the requestor that the requested records will be made available, along with the means of obtaining them and any additional costs that will be charged for making the records available, or it should inform the requestor that the requested records fall under an exemption to FOIA and will not be disclosed. The Town shall not create new records, nor summarize existing records. The Town is not required to create an electronic version of a public record where one does not exist.

Records Exempt From Disclosure

The Town adopts as a part of this Policy any and all exemptions, restrictions or limitations contained within FOIA, as FOIA may be amended from time to time, along with any other exemptions, restrictions or limitations that may be provided for now or in the future under South Carolina or federal law. As previously stated herein, the Town Attorney shall be consulted to determine whether an exemption, restriction or limitation to the disclosure requirements of FOIA applies. Where an exemption, restriction or limitation applies, the Town, based upon consultation with the Town Attorney, should decide whether to deny disclosure based upon the application of the available exemption, restriction or limitation. Where records contain certain information exempt from disclosure but which otherwise fall outside of an exemption, restriction or limitation, the exempted information shall be redacted and requested records shall otherwise be disclosed. It should be understood that certain items cannot be disclosed, such as social security numbers, birthdays, home addresses, victim information, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) information, information that may be protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), including workers compensation claims, and other matters of personal or private nature. If the requester feels some of the information requested may fall under this category and there is a legitimate reason to have that information in the public, the requester should specifically list that type of information and why it is necessary to disclose. The Town will not necessarily disclose that they are exempting some of this information because disclosing that they are exempting the information may in and of itself violate the personal nature of the information.

Commonly Used Exemptions:

  • Information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy. (S.C. Code § 30-4-40(2))
  • Records, video or audio recordings, or other information compiled for law enforcement purposes, but only to the extent that the production of such law enforcement records or information:

(A) would interfere with a prospective law enforcement proceeding;

(B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication;

(C) would constitute an unreasonable invasion of personal privacy;

(D) would 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, by an agency conducting a lawful security intelligence investigation, or information furnished by a confidential source;

(E) would disclose current techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose current guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions if such disclosure would risk circumvention of the law;

(F) would endanger the life or physical safety of any individual;

(G) would disclose any contents of intercepted wire, oral, or electronic communications not otherwise disclosed during a trial. (S.C. Code § 30-4-40(3))

Appeal Process

If the requester feels certain items have been improperly exempted from disclosure he or she should immediately email the Town Attorney with a brief description of the disagreement with the disclosure, and note with specificity the types of material the requester believes should be disclosed and why. If the requester does not receive an acknowledgement of receipt of the disagreement within 24 hours from the Town Attorney, the requester should assume the FOIA request has not been properly submitted and should make their request again. Within five (5) business days the Town Attorney shall reply to the disagreement and indicate whether they have additional information that will be disclosed. If at any time the Town Administrator or Town Attorney indicates there is no other material they will disclose, the requester or the Town can file for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief. The Chief Administrative Judge is required to schedule an initial hearing on the matter within 10 days of service of all parties.

Failure to Comply 

In addition to penalties available under FOIA, willful disregard of, or violation of, this Policy by any employee or other person who is subject to it, may constitute insubordination and be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

Costs for Processing FOIA Requests

The Council, pursuant to Section 30-4-30 of FOIA, has established the fee schedule below in order to compensate the Town for the actual cost of searching for and making copies of requested public records. Where it is anticipated that the staff time necessary to comply with a request may exceed five hours, the requestor may be required to pay a deposit of twenty-five percent of the estimated costs of complying with the request before staff will begin searching for or making copies of the requested records. Costs shall not be charged for time spent examining records to determine whether they may be disclosed.

Fees Schedule for Time and Copies

DESCRIPTION
CHARGE
Requestors shall pay for copies exceeding fifteen (15) pages
$0.25 per copy[1]
Blueprints/plats
$2.50/page[2]
Requestors shall pay for staff time at a gross hourly rate equal to the minimum hourly rate of an Administrative Clerk as adopted by Town Council in the Town’s annual budget
per hour, per employee[3]
Deposit for anticipated or apparent staff search time
25% of estimated costs
USB 2.0 Flash drive
$7.00 (if the information requested is over 10mb)
CD containing copies of requested documents
$5.00
Public Meeting DVD
$10.00
Video Duplication
$15.00
GIS Maps
$10.00 (up to 11x17 inches) or $20.00 (larger than 11x17 inches)
Certified Copies from Clerk of Court
$3.00 per copy
Elevation Certificates
$20.00 per copy
Comprehensive Plan
$50.00
Zoning Letter
$20.00
Flood Zone Determination
$20.00
Foundation Surveys/Site Plans
$20.00 per copy
Black & White Zoning Maps (plotter size)
$10.00
Color Zoning Maps (plotter size)
$10.00 and up depending on complexity.
Custom GIS Map Fees
$40.00 and up depending on complexity.
 
 

[1] Prevailing copy rate as of 2017for standard 81/2 x 11 copies.

[2] If blueprints or plats exceed 81/2x11 size.

[3] FY 2019 rate is $14.48. Future rates posted annually, effective July 1st