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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ind. Gov't. - Kokomo mayor has more public records issues

Kokomo mayor Matt McKillip, who last month lost a public records suit for his email list, now is being forced to reduce Kokomo's copying fees from $1.00 per page to $0.25 per page, according to a story today by Scott Smith in the Kokomo Tribune. Some quotes:

After refusing for more than a year to reduce Kokomo’s $1 a page copying fee to something more in line with most state and local government agencies, McKillip administration officials could do little but sit and watch as city council voted 6-0 March 13 to lower the fee to 25 cents a page, citing a provision in the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.

The law forbids government agencies from charging more than the actual cost of producing photocopies.

Agencies are not allowed to include labor costs. Mayor Matt McKillip said they should be.

“I think the statute’s wrong. I think we should be able to bill labor,” McKillip said Wednesday. * * *

Freedom of information advocates, including the Indiana Public Access Counselor’s Office and the Hoosier State Press Association, say if copying fees aren’t limited to the actual cost, government agencies would price public information out of reach.

Council members embraced the idea of lowering the fees earlier this year after a representative of Kokomo’s Fraternal Order of Police was charged $148 for a packet of city budget information.

“That’s pretty clear to me. We’re here to serve the public, not hinder them from getting records,” Council attorney Corbin King told the council in January.

In 1984, council delegated the responsibility for setting copying fees to the Board of Public Works and Safety, which set the fee at 20 cents a page. In November 2004, the McKillip-appointed board of works increased the fee to $1 a page.

In early 2005, the Tribune obtained an informal opinion from State Public Access Counselor Karen Davis, who said the $1 a page fee far exceeded what could be considered a reasonable copying fee under state law.

Davis said even 25 cents a page was too much in her opinion. Her opinions, however, are nonbinding and the board of works did not change the fee.

“State law doesn’t say we can’t charge $1 a page,” McKillip said Wednesday. “The public access counselor’s opinion isn’t binding.” * * *

Most county agencies charge 20 cents a page, and state agencies charge 10 cents a page. State law allows county recorders and county clerks to charge $1 a page for certain documents.

Indeed, as reported in this ILB entry yesterday, the General Assembly amended a law that now requires a county recorder to charge $1 per page for copying documents, to also impose a charge of $1 per page for printouts made using the recorders' publicly accessible computers and printers.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 30, 2006 03:58 PM
Posted to Indiana Government