Phoenix, AZ – The Southwest Public Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting data-driven policy solutions, has filed a lawsuit against Mesa Public Schools seeking the release of public records. The lawsuit aims to ensure compliance with the Arizona Public Records Law (APRL), which mandates the disclosure of official records created or maintained with the use of public funds.
The Southwest Public Policy Institute initiated a transparency project as a core tenant of its mission and work to enhance public access to government information and prevent the exclusion of the public from their right to access information. As part of this project, the organization submitted a public records request to the Mesa Public Schools, a public body in Arizona. However, the request was denied on the grounds that the requested records would require the creation of new documents, rather than the provision of existing ones.
Under the APRL, public bodies are required to maintain and promptly furnish copies of public records upon request. The law’s core purpose is to facilitate public access to government information, enabling the public to monitor the performance of government officials and employees. The failure of Mesa Public Schools to provide the requested records and a legal justification for withholding them is a violation of the APRL and the public’s right to access information.
“Transparency forms the bedrock of accountable government,” said Patrick Brenner, president of SPPI. “I believe in holding public institutions accountable and ensuring that our government remains transparent and honest – this lawsuit is our way of making sure the curtains are drawn and shedding light on the importance of government accountability.”
The Southwest Public Policy Institute seeks the following relief through the lawsuit:
- Issuance of a preliminary and permanent injunction, enjoining the respondents from withholding the requested records.
- An order compelling Mesa Public Schools to immediately provide copies of the requested public records.
- In-camera inspection, if necessary, to redact confidential information and produce non-exempt information.
- Alternatively, an order compelling the respondents to conduct a proper search of relevant email accounts to produce responsive non-exempt information or provide sufficient justification for the failure to produce withheld records within thirty days.
- Award of damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees, as allowed by relevant statutes and rules.
- Any additional relief deemed just and proper by the court.
The Southwest Public Policy Institute’s legal representation consists of Matthew D. Hardin of Hardin Law Office in Washington, DC, and Sherra Kissee of Kissee Solutions, PLLC in Payson, AZ. They have extensive experience in public records litigation and are committed to upholding the principles of transparency and accountability.
The lawsuit has been filed in the Superior Court of Arizona, Maricopa County, under Case No. CV2023-007368. The court’s jurisdiction and venue are based on relevant Arizona statutes and rules governing public records and special actions.