More on what agencies can/can’t charge you for documents

“This is the issue that the OOR and Rendell went head-to-head on back in
December 2008, before the new law took effect,” de Bourbon wrote in an e-mail. “Rendell issued this Management
Directive — without discussing it with Terry Mutchler — that stated
Commonwealth agencies COULD charge for labor, search and retrieval fees as ‘necessarily incurred’ expenses. Although of course Mutchler had clearly come
out and stated that they could NOT.
“At the time, after AP picked up on the story, Rendell’s office backed down,
a bit, saying that they would more or less take a “wait and see” attitude about
such fees, after taking time to study how much staff time would really be taken
up by RTK requests.  But the Management Directive was never amended or
rescinded.
“So, in this case, the OOR is again stating its decision that agencies may
NOT charge staff time or other fees for retrieving records. I wouldn’t be
surprised if it ended up in Commonwealth Court, as obviously — the inane way
the law is written — this matter of ‘necessarily incurred’ expenses is wide
open for interpretation.”

Since the OOR is reinforcing its existing policy with its decision, de Bourbon said, “ultimately, it’s going to be a
power struggle. Will the courts recognize the OOR’s authority to establish this
policy? Or will it not? Will it take into consideration the legislative intent
of the law? Or will the court read it literally, and make its own
decision?

The answers to those questions will play key roles in the strength of the state’s new open records law.

About Scott Blanchard

Sunday editor at the York (Pa.) Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter and Google+.
This entry was posted in Pennsylvania Right to Know. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to More on what agencies can/can’t charge you for documents

  1. Mel Horn says:

    I had been in an accident in York City in May of 2009. I needed to provide a copy of the accident report to a prospective employer to prove the accident wasn’t my fault (it wasn’t).
    The charge for a five page report was $15.00 and the request was made during regular City Hall business hours.

  2. Mel,
    Thanks for that info. Did the city break down the cost of that, or was it just a standard fee for that particular service? I’d like to check into it a little bit.
    Thanks,
    Scott

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