What cost freedom -- of information?

February 15, 2012 2:46 PM

Here are several interesting items of note in the last couple days regarding costs associated with fulfilling public records requests—and the fighting thereof.

Granted, if not these then at least some agencies likely have used or will use costs—actual or estimated, reasonable or outlandish—as a way of deflecting criticism when requested records are not searched for adequately or are ultimately not located, and that is unacceptable.

Still, in our times, with budgets being slashed at all levels of government, it is incumbent upon us to give careful consideration as to just how we as a citizenry intend on paying for this little thing called open government while not allowing our public officials to use the cost of adhering to the law as an excuse to break it.

While we're on the subject, be sure to check out last week's National Security Archive post regarding the CIA's "covert operation against Declassification Review" and sign the petition from our friends at OpenTheGovernment.org to "restore accountability to the CIA's secrecy system."

More from around the states, below:

The California Assembly spent nearly $200,000 in legal fees fighting against disclosure of member-by-member budgets that allocate tens of millions in public funds, records show. Assembly administrator Jon Waldie said the sum does not include hundreds of hours, perhaps more than a thousand hours, consumed by Capitol employees in gathering records ultimately ordered released by a Sacramento court.

Finding out how the public uses Hawaii's open records law isn't easy. And it's not cheap either. And that's despite a state requirement that agencies send a report to the Hawaii Office of Information Practices every year about public records requests. Turns out virtually none of them are doing it.

Gov. Bill Haslam (R-TN) says it may be time to reset the state’s policy for handling requests for public documents. Haslam’s administration is examining how each department handles requests for public records, saying the state needs to standardize how it responds and charges for the labor and time to provide records.

Naperville City Council members say they support residents’ rights to access government information, but some believe smart grid opponents have gone too far. ... The total estimated staff time spent on replying to the requests and related legal issues is 1,475 hours through last Thursday. The city’s total cost so far is $73,750 at an estimated rate of $50 per hour.