Freedom of Information Act
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Code of Alabama you have the right to examine certain eligible public records.
- You have the right to request to inspect and/or receive copies of most public records.
- You have the right to request that any charges for the requested records be estimated in advance.
How to make a public records request
You may request records by completing a public records request form. If you do not have access to a computer, call 205-670-6500 to request a printed form.
You may submit this form in several ways:
- U.S. Mail: Public Records Request, 200 West College Street, Columbiana, AL 35051
- Fax: 205-669-3864
- Email: Send the form to FOIA@shelbyal.com
- In person: 200 West College Street, Columbiana, AL 35051
Fulfilling your request
Shelby County will normally respond within 14 working days of receiving a request. The 14-day period does not include weekends or holidays. Shelby County will make one of the following responses to your request within the 14-day time period:
- Provide the records requested in their entirety or direct you to a location where you can request or examine such records.
- Withhold all of the records requested, because all of the records are subject to a specific statutory or legal exemption. If all of the records are being withheld, a response in writing will be sent with an explanation of the exemption. That response will identify the records being withheld, and state the specific reason such records are being withheld.
- Provide some of the records requested, but withhold other records. An entire record will not be withheld if only a portion of it is subject to an exemption. In that instance, the portion of the record that may be withheld will be redacted, the remainder of the record will be provided. A written response stating the specific reason such records are being withheld.
- Respond in writing that the requested records cannot be found, are not maintained in the form requested or do not exist.
- If Shelby County cannot respond to a request within the 14-day period, you will be informed in writing, explaining the conditions that make the response impossible.
If a request for a very large number of records is made, and it is determined that it cannot be provided within 30 working days without disrupting other organizational responsibilities, a reasonable effort shall be made to reach an agreement concerning the production or inspection of the records. Where practical and cost effective, all requests for information will be provided in common electronic formats.
- If the estimated cost is more than $25, a deposit may be required (not to exceed the amount of the estimate), before proceeding with your request. The 14 days to respond to a request does not include the time between a request for a deposit and a response from the requestor.
- Costs include items such as staff time, copying costs, media costs or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It will not include general overhead costs.
- If requested, an estimate of the charges will be provided prior to supplying the records requested.
- If money is owed from a previous public record request that has remained unpaid for more than 30 days, Shelby County may require payment of the past-due bill before responding to a new public records request.
- A request must identify the records needed with "reasonable specificity." It does not refer to or limit the volume or number of records requested; instead, it requires that a request be specific enough to identify and locate records.
- A request must ask for existing records or documents. FOIA allows for inspection or copying of records; it does not apply to a situations asking general questions about the work of (the Department), nor does it require (the Department) to create a record that does not exist or devote staff time to search for records not immediately identifiable.
- Records can be provided in the format in which they were created. For example, if you are requesting records maintained in an Excel spreadsheet, you may elect to receive those records electronically, via e-mail or on a computer disk, or to receive a printed copy of those records.
- You may be contacted if there are questions about a request, to ensure that the appropriate records are being provided.
- Many records are directly controlled by other entities such as 1) Sheriff’s Office 2) Probate Office 3) Property Tax Commissioner and 4) Circuit Clerk. Contacting these entities directly may expedite your search.
Shelby County allows any public body to withhold certain records from public disclosure. Shelby County Government commonly withholds records subject to exemptions such as:
- Personnel records
- Records subject to attorney-client privilege
- Vendor proprietary information
- Records relating to the negotiation and award of a contract, prior to a contract being awarded
- Security matters or sensitive information
For more information, please contact Shelby County’s public records contact at 205-670-6500.