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Friday, October 14, 2016

Ind. Gov't. - "State PAC advises Newburgh to provide public emails to C&P"

Shannon Hall reports today in the Evansville Courier & Press (C&P):

After attempting to charge the Courier & Press hundreds of dollars for access to Newburgh town emails, the town will provide the emails at no cost after the Indiana Public Access Counselor considered it a block of access.

"We received the ruling and we are prepared to provide you with your requested emails. We will get with our IT contractor to pull the emails off the server at no charge per the opinion of the public access counselor," Newburgh Town Manager Christy Powell states in an email sent Thursday.

Later Thursday, Powell issued this statement:

"As you know, the Town of Newburgh is always prepared to provide requested public records in a timely manner. The only question was one of who should bear the cost of these requests, the requester (In this case The Courier) or the taxpayers," the statement reads. "The Public Access Counselor has determined that it is the taxpayers. The Town will abide by the ruling and will charge the Courier only $.10 per page as required by the opinion."

In his decision, the access counselor said Newburgh's attempt to charge hundreds of dollars was, in effect, an attempt to charge the taxpayers twice for a single service.

In August, the Courier & Press requested digital copies for all emails between Newburgh police commission members -- Tonya McGuire, Bill Kavanaugh and Leanna Hughes -- from July 1-31. Powell responded concerning the cost of the request, saying if the Courier & Press wanted emails off the town's servers it would require the town's IT contractor, PC Quest, to retrieve the emails at a rate of $90 an hour.

"This cost will be passed on to the Courier," the August email states.

A PC Quest employee told the town the request would take about six to eight hours, costing $540 to $720. * * *

The town considered the cost of having the contractor to retrieve the emails as a direct cost, which would allow them to pass the cost to the Courier & Press as the requester. The public access counselor disagreed.

"If the town chooses to provide you the information on a thumb drive or a compact disc, it may charge 105 percent of the cost of the CD or flash drive and any labor to drag and drop the .pdf files onto the actual medium," Luke Britt, Indiana's Public Access Counselor, states in his advisory opinion. "This would be a fairly negligible cost and would not come close to approaching the price quoted to you."

The story links to the PAC opinion (and background documents).

(As of this writing, the opinion is not available on the PAC site, but when it is, this link should reach it directly.)

ILB comment: The lesson here may be to ask for the file that results from the search for the emails to be provided digitally on a flash drive.

Otherwise, each individual email and iteration thereof may be printed out and provided in paper form, or printed out and scanned and then provided as an individual pdf document, all at a rate of $0.10/page.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 14, 2016 09:26 AM
Posted to Indiana Government