Denver Post political investigative reporter Chuck Plunkett asks a thousand dollar question: Is $1,050 an unreasonable amount to pay for access to public records? As a diehard proponent of open, transparent government obviously I think the cost is out of line.
In my experience with open records request, I have found that charges vary from agency to agency. It’s customary to get an estimate of cost and pay it up front. Some agencies won’t charge a dime even for detailed requests. Others have made it both expensive and difficult. Three examples:
- In July 2010, COST sent a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to Greeley Evans School District 6 for contracts and invoices for more than a dozen different vendors for the period of one year. The completed CORA was several hundred pages. Cost — $0.
- COST sent a CORA request to the city of Denver for the check registry for one year. We exchanged a couple of emails and within a week COST had a record of every check the city of Denver had written during the course of one year. Cost — $75
- Writing for our energy blog, I submitted a CORA request to the Department of Regulatory Affairs (DORA) for four years worth of travel documents, including calendars and any presentations, for the Commissioners for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), admittedly a much more detailed CORA. The attorney general’s office gave me an outrageous ballpark figure of “high five figures.” They came back with an estimate of $3,020. I asked to simply review the documents in order to reduce the cost. No was the response. After much negotiating and time, I finally got more than one thousand pages of documents. Cost — $1,741.80