Court ruled that any request made to a government official for information or records is considered an Open Government Act (OGA) request, after an appeal in Shmull vs. Ngiraingas Civil No. 20-014.
Court issued an opinion on three issues on the Open Government Act raised in an appeal case. One, “any request for records made to government officials acting in their official capacity is a request under the OGA triggering that Act’s requirements.”
It disputed Appellant’s (Shmull) issue that the Appellee’s (Ngiraingas) request did not say it was requested under the OGA. “The statute intends to provide a mechanism for all citizens, regardless of their familiarity with the finer points of the law, to hold their elected officials accountable,” states the Court opinion.
Court states a government official must produce the records requested within 10 days as stated by the law, and if not, it must show that the records requested falls under the exempt status under the law.
“The reason for the imposition of a ten-day response time is to ensure that the requests for public records cannot be ignored or responded to at the leisure of the government.” Said court.
Furthermore, just responding to the requestor does not fulfill the intent of the law. “We now hold that merely replying that the request will take more time to fulfill does not fully discharge the government’s duty to produce the records. Such a reading would create a loophole that negates the statute’s purpose,” court asserted.
The court asserts that request for information does not have to be in writing nor does it have to identify specific documents, only states general subject matter.
Government official must produce requested records within 10 days and if production is going to take more time, it must provide a timeframe for the request to be processed and if they cannot provide, they must explain why.
Appellate Court affirmed Trial Court’s decision in Shmull v. Ngiraingas, a case where Ngiraingas had requested various information from the Government of Peleliu through Governor Shmull and did not received many of the records he sought. In this civil case, Trial Court ruled in favor of Ngiraingas saying that responses to some of his requests were in violation of the Open Government Act. The case was appealed by Governor Shmull, and in here, Appellate Court upheld the Trial Court’s ruling.

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