What is the difference in public agency reocrds and non-public agency records?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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One major difference is that public agencies are subject to statutes, either state or federal, that may require that their records be made available upon request by anyone, while non-public agencies (NGOs) are not.  The federal statute is the Freedom of Information Act, and all federal agencies are subject to this law.  Each state has some sort of similar statute that applies, often called a "Right to Know" law.  Private agencies are not subject to Right to Know laws as a general matter, although there might be instances in which they must provide records if they accept taxpayer funding.  At least in theory, government is attempting to move to more transparent operations, allowing the public to know what various agencies are doing, and these statutes are meant to be a means of promoting that transparency.  Why should we not know what our tax dollars are going for?  On the other hand, an NGO that has no taxpayer funding need not be transparent, although there are various reporting requirements for such an agency to maintain its tax-exempt status. 

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