The statement of policy found in 1 V.S.A. §315 describes the rationale for affording access to public records. The language of this section originally was adopted through Act 231 of 1976 (An act to add 1 V.S.A. Chapter 5, Subchapter 3 relating to access to public documents and records), the State of Vermont's first comprehensive public records law.
“It is the policy of this subchapter to provide for free and open examination of records consistent with Chapter I, Article 6 of the Vermont Constitution. Officers of government are trustees and servants of the people and it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize their decisions even though such examination may cause inconvenience or embarrassment. All people, however, have a right to privacy in their personal and economic pursuits, which ought to be protected unless specific information is needed to review the action of a governmental officer. Consistent with these principles, the general assembly hereby declares that certain public records shall be made available to any person as hereinafter provided. To that end, the provisions of this subchapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy, and the burden of proof shall be on the public agency to sustain its action.”
– 1 V.S.A. § 315
1 V.S.A. §315 remained unchanged until the passage of Act 59 of 2011 (An act relating to establishing a government transparency office to enforce the public records act), which added “and the burden of proof shall be on the public agency to sustain its action.” The current 1 V.S.A. § 315(c), which formalized the name of the Public Records Act, was added by Act 29 of 2015 (An act relating to Public Records Act exemptions): “This subchapter may be known and cited as the Public Records Act or the PRA.”
In 2018, the passage of Act 166 (An act relating to the Open Meeting Law and the Public Records Act) added the current 1 V.S.A. § 315(b), which was drawn from existing language in 3 V.S.A. § 218 (Agency and Department Records Management Program):
“The General Assembly finds that public records are essential to the administration of State and local government. Public records contain information that allows government programs to function, provides officials with a basis for making decisions, and ensures continuity with past operations. Public records document the legal responsibilities of government, help protect the rights of citizens, and provide citizens a means of monitoring government programs and measuring the performance of public officials. Public records provide documentation for the functioning of government and for the retrospective analysis of the development of Vermont government and the impact of programs on citizens.
– 1 V.S.A. § 315
The State of Vermont’s policy statement that the provisions of the Public Records Act “shall be liberally construed with the view towards carrying out the provisions” allowing access to public records is frequently cited by Vermont courts in rulings on public record cases.
Vermont State Archives & Records Administration
Tanya Marshall, State Archivist & Director
1078 Route 2, Middlesex
Montpelier, VT 05633-7701
Phone & Hours
Main Line: 802-828-3700
Office Hours: 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM, M-F
Reference Room: 9 AM to 4 PM, M-F