Request Mediation of your Public Records Request

The Public Ethics Commission conducts mediation of public records requests made by members of the public to City departments for records within the department’s control.

What to Do

Please complete a Request for Mediation form, and submit the form and any attachments to the Public Ethics Commission. This form becomes a public record available for inspection by the public, along with any documents submitted with this form.

Mediation Request Form

Need to Know

What is a public record? A public record is any writing or recording that contains information about the conduct of the public’s business, including those stored in electronic form (such as emails). State and local law provide the right for the people to inspect and obtain copies of public records, unless those records, or information in the records, are confidential. Examples of confidential records include those containing personal information like a social security number, those relating to an ongoing investigation, or attorney-client communications. Confidential records might be partially redacted or withheld entirely.

Who may request mediation? Any person whose request to inspect or copy public records has been denied, delayed, or not completely fulfilled, may request mediation of their request through the Public Ethics Commission (PEC).

What does the mediation process look like? The PEC is responsible for conducting mediation. PEC staff will try to begin mediation within 10 days of receiving your request; however, due to high demand for PEC staff resources, many mediations begin later than 10 days after the request is made. The mediator (a PEC Commissioner or staff member) will conduct most communication between the parties by phone or email, and will aim to resolve the dispute to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. The mediator’s recommendations are not binding on any party.

What is the difference between filing a mediation request and filing a complaint? The purpose of filing a mediation request is to have the PEC assist you in obtaining any records to which you are legally entitled. The purpose of filing a complaint is to have the PEC’s Enforcement Unit investigate any potential violations of our local public records law; it is not necessarily meant to obtain any records you are requesting.

Do I have to participate in mediation before I can file a complaint or take legal action? Yes. A requestor who alleges an incomplete or untimely response to their public records request, must first participate in mediation before filing a complaint with the PEC or seeking a court order.

How long does mediation take? There is no legal deadline for when a mediation must end. Because the mediator cannot force an agency to release records, the length of the mediation depends upon the amount of cooperation received. Some mediations are completed within a few weeks, while others can go on longer than that.

Can I end the mediation myself? Yes, you may withdraw from the mediation process at any time. At that point, you may file a complaint with the PEC or seek a court order – but if you end the mediation, the PEC will no longer work to produce the records you are seeking. To withdraw your mediation request, please notify PEC staff in writing.

What if the mediation is unsuccessful? If the mediator is unable to resolve the dispute and determines that future mediation is unlikely to produce additional records, the mediator will notify both parties that they are closing the mediation and explain why. A final report regarding the mediation will be provided to the Public Ethics Commission at its next public meeting. You will be informed of that report in advance of the Commission’s meeting and will have the opportunity to make a public comment at the meeting. You may then file a complaint with the PEC to investigate alleged violations of our local public records law, or seek a court order. Note: the PEC has no authority to impose fines for Sunshine violations.

Where can I find more information? See the Oakland Sunshine Ordinance (Oakland Municipal Code Chapter 2.20, or contact the PEC with any questions you may have about mediation.

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