Carlson in Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community v. Rogers
In Carlson in Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community v. Rogers, 168 Ariz. 531, 815 P.2d 900 (1991), the Indian Community sought to prevent the state treasurer from disclosing a check distribution list, created by a private escrow company, that related to the state's purchase of a right-of-way across tribal lands and contained personal information about the Community's members. Id. at 533, 815 P.2d at 902.
The list was found in the treasurer's office but was not part of his records. Id. The sole issue in that special action was "whether the check distribution list is a 'public record' or 'other matter' of the state of Arizona and therefore subject to disclosure under Arizona's Public Records Law." Id.
In concluding it was not, the court stated:
The determination of whether the check distribution list is within the class of records subject to disclosure does not depend upon its physical location in the treasurer's office or the fact that the computer program used in generating the list was developed with state funds. The issue is whether the treasurer generated or used the list in a capacity related to the duties of that office. The record does not support such a finding. Id. at 542, 815 P.2d at 911.
P16 Rejecting various arguments PNI advanced in that case, the court in Salt River concluded that the check distribution list was neither a "public record" nor "other matter" subject to inspection under 39-121 and, therefore, did not "reach the issue of whether disclosure was barred by 'countervailing interests of confidentiality, privacy or the best interests of the state. . . .'" 168 Ariz. at 542, 815 P.2d at 911.
The court also noted, "in most cases, the fine distinction between public records and other matters is not a point in controversy." Id. at 537, 815 P.2d at 906.
P17 The court in Salt River further observed that the superior court, which had ordered disclosure, "may have assumed that the list was within the category of documents subject to disclosure under A.R.S. 39-121.01 and dispensed with the initial determination of whether the list was a public record or other matter to reach the determination of whether its release would have a harmful effect on the duties of an official or agency." Id. at 536, 815 P.2d at 905.
But, the court stated, "that approach is improper when, as in Salt River, the facts raise a substantial question as to the threshold determination of whether the document is subject to the statute." Id. Thus, "the first issue" the court addressed was "whether the check distribution list was a public record or other matter of the state rather than a private federal-tribal record." Id. at 538, 815 P.2d at 907.