It is hereby the policy of the Department of Health and Environmental Control that records of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (hereinafter "Department") be open to the public for inspection and copying pursuant to, and subject to any limitations of, the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), S.C. Code Ann. 30-4-10 et seq. (1976, as amended). Further, that the Department be committed to following both the letter and spirit of the FOIA.
In order to ensure open access, accountability, and timely and appropriate response to the public, all requests for information will be coordinated through a Freedom of Information Center.
II. FOI CENTER POLICY AND PROCEDURES
A. General. The Department of Health and Environmental Control receives a substantial number of FOI requests in the central office as well as in its district offices throughout the state. The DHEC FOI Center is being established to ensure that all requests are handled in a consistent manner and in conformity with the FOIA.
The FOI Center shall be located at the:
DHEC Central Office Building
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201.
Telephone inquiries may be made by dialing (803) 898-3882.
B. Receipt of Request/Procedure to Process. All FOI requests must be in writing . No particular form is required, although a standard form may be downloaded from the previous page or will be provided upon request. A FOIA request log shall be maintained at the FOI Center, and all requests will be logged in regardless of where the files are reviewed.
If the requested records are available, the FOI Center shall coordinate with appropriate program areas to arrange for retrieval, review and/or copying of records. Review of records shall be by appointment only. Review of records will ordinarily take place within the FOI Center. However, review may take place, at the sole discretion of the FOI Center, at other FOI Center offices.
The Freedom of Information Coordinator will be responsible for establishing and coordinating procedures with District Offices for all FOI requests.
C. Referral of Requests to Office of General Counsel. Certain requests which may involve ongoing litigation, enforcement activities, or confidentiality may be referred to the Office of General Counsel for advice, or where appropriate, a response.
Certain requests may require a determination to be made regarding confidentiality, trade secret, or other FOIA or separate statutory exemption from release. In such cases, the requestor will be notified that the files are not immediately available and that they will be contacted by the FOI Center upon determination regarding exemption by the Department
D. Response to Request/Notification. Within fifteen working days of receipt of a written FOI request, the Department must, in accordance with Section 30-4-30(c), make a determination in writing to the requestor regarding the release of the requested records.
If the records are available, the requestor will be notified and instructed to contact the FOI Center to schedule a time and place where the records may be inspected or copied and will be advised of any charges that apply.
E. Policy on Fees. Section 30-4-30(b) provides for the establishment and collection of reasonable fees and for certain exemptions. These fees are subject to change. A current schedule of fees will be available from the FOI Coordinator. Fees will include both the cost of reproduction and personnel costs for research and retrieval.