Thursday, October 02, 2008

Smackdown On Public Records Is Public Loss

A new fee schedule means a sliding scale will be used to charge you to view and/or copy public records, thanks to a decision from the state. It's a leap backward, away from open government and a tactic of sheer intimidation which is an embarrassment for the state.

The KNS reports:

The hourly rate will depend on the salary of the person doing the search. For example, a search would cost $20 per hour if the government worker processing the request earns $39,000 a year.

The decision may surprise members of an advisory committee that met to discuss fees for records searches. Open government advocates had called for at least three hours of search time before labor costs kicked in, while Chad Jenkins of the Tennessee Municipal League had indicated he would settle for two hours."

So in addition to paying the salaries of public officials, you'll pay even more by requiring them to perform their duties and provide access to records if it takes them more than an hour to fill your request. Bets on what the minimum time will be now to search records and/or make copies?

A problem some officials claim exists is that occasionally, a person will constantly demand more and more information and records requests, which officials see as a way to harass some office or agency. So, the idea, apparently, is to charge EVERY CITIZEN more money. Brilliant.

A far more common sense approach might have been to set fees on making copies/searching records based on the number of requests or copies being made on a person-by-person basis. But no - this is just digging deeper into your pockets if you seek information. We charge you more if you ask questions now.

An office can waive all fees if they wish. And pigs might fly if you throw one hard enough.

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