More info at The Gainesville Times regarding the increase in Open Records Request fees:
Though the law states the hourly rate for pulling records should be that of the lowest paid employee capable, Nix said it often needs to be one of the highest paid employees who handles the requests.
“It takes a lot of times the manager(sic) to make the decision on what to redact,” Nix said….”I would say that the majority of them can be pulled kind of quickly, but the problem is when you get two or three of those in one day,” Bennett said. “We don’t budget in time for open records requests. It kind of puts me behind in my other stuff; those are a priority.”
Currently, Hall County charges the maximum amount for an Open Records Request – 25 cents a page. FedEx Office in Buford charges 10 cents per copy with volume discounts. The County already makes a profit on the copying aspect of complying with Freedom of Information Act requests.
In addition, they charge an hourly fee equivalent to the lowest paid employee that is capable of filling the request. Hall County officials state that the lowest paid employee is a manager. So, instead of $7 bucks an hour or something, they’ll stick someone with a $20 an hour additional fee- on top of the 25 cents a page.
The new plan is to change the law in order to increase these fees. Their reasoning? The County is understaffed, and no time is budgeted to fulfill these requests.
This is an attempt, pure and simple, to obscure government from your view. There is absolutely no reason for a county the size of Hall to charge the maximum amount and then beg for additional rate increases.
What if one could prove that Hall County quoted $40K for a Open Records Request last year?
And could someone tell Bennett (“it kind of puts me behind in my other stuff; those are a priority.”) that Open Records Requests are a priority. It’s unfortunate that it feels burdensome to your workday, but it’s in your job description.
Or hire an intern. Your call.
UPDATE: It’s not the Clerk’s fault that the Commission didn’t budget the money. It probably is a pain when the County Office is understaffed. But Open Records Requests shouldn’t be simply a nuisance… they should be a vital part of office management, in the budget and in the day-to-day running of County affairs. Perhaps the Commission can take it more seriously instead of sloughing it off on already-slammed administrators.