Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog
Fifteen cents a page, a buck a page?
What’s a fair asking price for state records?
Well know this: Nebraska Watchdog reported in June that agencies are increasingly charging hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in fees for public records.
During a public hearing on Wednesday state lawmakers heard several high-cost horror stories.
A news reporter recounted a records request involving a search of hundreds of emails at an initial cost of nearly $1,300. Eventually, instead of paper copies, the records were put on a computer disc for $560.
“No one knows what the cost should be,” said Jack Gould of Common Cause, Nebraska.
Meanwhile officials said they’re seeing a growing trend — one that can bog down the system.
“Some (people making requests) want any and all records,” noted Ron Withem of the University of Nebraska who testified in a neutral capacity.
The state open records law requires public offices to allow people to inspect public documents for free, with some exceptions.
But the law also allows governments to charge for everything from a secretary’s time gathering the documents to a lawyer’s time scanning the data for information that can be redacted.
State Sen. Bill Avery, chairman of the Government Committee, is pushing legislation which would result in “reasonable” copying costs for paper, toner and equipment.
But the most critical element has to do with the time it takes to find the information. Avery’s bill says the first six search hours are free.
No one testified against the bill.
Contact Joe Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org
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