MONONGALIA COUNTY SCHOOLS PUSHING OUT THE PUBLIC
“FOIA makes disclosure of information concerning government activities a basic obligation of state and municipal governments and, therefore, FOIA requesters should not be saddled with the burden of paying such ‘overhead costs’ as well as ‘the actual [out-of-pocket] cost of reproduction’.”
The proposed policy above not only ought to be thrown out before it is implemented, Mon Schools should reduce its copying costs to be much more in line with commercial costs. The current 40 cents per copy charge is unreasonable.
Prepared by Professor Patrick C. McGinley and Suzanne M. Weise, Esq.
The Freedom of Information Act permits each public body to “establish fees reasonably calculated to reimburse it for its actual cost in making reproductions of such records.” W. Va. Code § 29B-1-3(5). Although this provision seems simple and straightforward, one commentator has observed “there is no guidance on what constitutes ‘actual cost’ of reproduction. Arguably this cost could include an overhead charge as well as direct charges, but that interpretation raises the further question of reasonableness and consistency with the underlying policies of the act.”Neely, supra, § 7.04 at 543-44. The Supreme Court of Appeals has cautioned that a public body “may, of course, provide for reasonable limitations as to the hours and methods of viewing and cost of copying, but in no circumstances may these limitations be used so as to prevent a person from access to the records.” Richardson v. Town of Kimball, 340 S.E.2d at 583 n.2.
Considering the broad public policy favoring disclosure of government information as a means of furthering core democratic principles, there is an extremely cogent argument that “the actual cost of reproduction” should be liberally construed. Such a construction of the statutory language would limit the per page cost to be comparable to that charged by commercial copying concerns and that overhead and charges for search time should not be included. FOIA makes disclosure of information concerning government activities a basic obligation of state and municipal governments and, therefore, FOIA requesters should not be saddled with the burden of paying such “overhead costs” as well as “the actual [out-of-pocket] cost of reproduction.”
Send your comments on Mon Schools proposed FOIA policy change to Dr. Louis Hlad (firstname.lastname@example.org), either in the form below or as you like, by email or paper:
Policy 1-02 (ACCESS AND EXAMINATION OF PUBLIC RECORDS) is out on comment until October 15, 2010.
MONONGALIA COUNTY SCHOOLS POLICY REVIEW/COMMENT FORM
Dr. Louis Hlad / 13 South High Street / Morgantown, WV 26501)
Phone: _____ _______________ Date: __________________________
Signature of Responded