Having problems prying loose public documents from a local or state government agency? A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request can help you obtain the information you need. Diplomacy should always be your first move though. As the old saying goes, "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar." Before filing a FOIA letter, attempt to collect the needed information simply by politely requesting it. Realize that your request is not the only project on somebodies desk, so do not expect to receive the information over night. If ample time goes by and you still have not received the needed documents, follow up by phone or email.
If all else fails, its time to leverage your civil rights and make a FOIA request. Note that FOIA's typically are not free. Before you make your request, ask the agency for the current agency fee schedule. It will explain the cost of different types of searches (manual versus computer, clerical versus professional, and the like). It will also tell you the cost per page for photocopying. Fees can vary widely from agency to agency, and even within the same agency.
FOIA requests must be completed within five days.