Public Records Definition:

North Carolina General Statute (NCGS) § 132-1(a) defines public record(s) as “all documents, papers, letters, maps, books, photographs, films, sound recordings, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data-processing records, artifacts, or other documentary material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received pursuant to law or ordinance in connection with the transaction of public business by any agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions. Agency of North Carolina government or its subdivisions shall mean and include every public office, public officer or official (State or local, elected or appointed), institution, board, commission, bureau, council, department, authority or other unit of government of the State or of any county, unit, special district, or other political subdivision of government.”


What records are exempt from the Public Records Law?

All records maintained by the City of Durham are public unless they are exempt from disclosure under the NC Public Records Law. If a records request is denied, the City will cite the appropriate law that allows the City to withhold the record.

Exempted records include but are not limited to:

  • Confidential communications from an attorney to a client within the scope of the attorney-client relationship as defined in NCGS § 132-1.1.
  • Criminal investigation records and records of criminal intelligence information, as provided in NCGS § 132-1.4 (active and closed investigations).

·       Sensitive public security information, including specific details of public security plans and arrangements, detailed plans and drawings of public buildings and infrastructure facilities, and certain plans to prevent and respond to terrorist activity, as provided in NCGS § 132-1.7 and technology security information.

·       Records of minors per NCGS § 132-1-4, 132-1.12 and 7B-2901.

·       All information contained in City employees’ personnel files maintained by the City is confidential in accordance with NCGS § 160A-168, except information specified to be a matter of public record, such as name, age, dates of employment, current position title, current compensation. These rules apply to personnel information for applicants, current employees and former employees.

·       Social security numbers and personal “identifying information” is confidential and unlawful to disclose to the public. In addition to social security numbers, “personal identifying information” includes: employer taxpayer identification numbers; drivers’ license numbers, passport numbers; checking, savings, credit and debit account numbers; personal identification code (PIN) numbers used to access financial resources; digital signatures; and other numbers or information that can be used to access a person’s financial resources; biometric data; fingerprints; and passwords; all as provided in NCGS § 132-1.10, NCGS § 75-61 and NCGS § 14-113.20.

·       Trade secrets and electronic payment account numbers are protected as set forth in NCGS § 132-1.2. (Note that to protect a “trade secret” detailed requirements must be met.)

·       The seal of an architect, engineer or land surveyor when that seal has been submitted for project approval under Part 5 of Article 19, Chapter 160A (Building Inspections) as set forth in NCGS § 132-1.2.

·       Certain economic development incentives are temporarily protected, but the City must make certain prior disclosures to applicants, as provided in NCGS § 132-1.11 and NCGS § 132-6(d).

·       Closed session meeting minutes that are deemed protected under NCGS § 143-318.10(e). 

·       Water & sewer customer billing information (GS 132-1.1 and GS132.1.2 (2).


May I request to inspect a record rather than get a copy?

A requestor may ask to inspect City records. The City will notify the requestor once the records are available for inspection and make them available at a date and time mutually agreed upon by the requestor and the City. The appointment to inspect the record may need to be broken into intervals, as not to interfere with daily operations of a department.


What information should I provide to help the City fulfill my request?

All requests for public records should contain the following information:

  • Date of the request
  • Requestor's name
  • Requestor’s mailing address – if requested information is to be mailed
  • Requestor’s e-mail address
  • Requestor’s cell or day-time phone number
  • A complete description of the record or records requested
  • The title and the date of the requested record or records, if known; and, whether the requestor would prefer to inspect the record or obtain a photocopy or electronic copy via email. (Charges may apply for photocopies, CDs or flash drives. The requestor will be notified of the cost prior to fulfilment of the request.)


How much does it cost to obtain public records?

Most records are provided free of charge. However, requesters will be notified in advance of any charges. The City of Durham may make reasonable charges not to exceed its actual cost incurred in accessing, duplicating, supplying, or searching for the requested records. You may refer to the City of Durham Fee Schedule, chapter 10, Part 10-101 (Fees for Providing Copies of Public Records).


How long should I expect to wait to have my request fulfilled?

The City of Durham is committed to an open and transparent government. As a rule, we respond to all requests for information as quickly as possible and strive to communicate a realistic time frame. It may not always be possible to fill requests right away if the requests span various departments and/or if they need to be reviewed to see if they contain confidential or restricted information.


Questions, please contact the Communications Department at (919) 560-4123 or communications@durhamnc.gov.