Anyone requesting electronic public records that take longer than one hour for city staff to produce will now be required to pay set fees for this service.
The Casper City Council approved a resolution at its Tuesday meeting that established the following per-hour fees: $20.50 for clerical staff, $34 for information technology staff and $50 for professional staff.
The city’s staff sometimes receives requests for thousands of pages of electronic public records, said City Manager Carter Napier. Consistent fees are needed because such requests take a significant amount of time to fulfill.
The resolution, which was proposed by city staff, also established costs for paper copies of public records, including 10 cents per page for black-and-white standard documents and 25 cents per page for black-and-white legal documents.
Councilwoman Kenyne Humphrey supported the measure and explained that she believes Casper should be run like a business—especially given the city’s current budgetary concerns.
“A business needs to charge for its services,” she said.
Stating that the fees seemed reasonable, Councilman Bob Hopkins also gave the resolution his approval.
Other council members expressed reservations.
There was no reason for those with small records requests to be excessively charged, said Councilman Chris Walsh.
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Councilman Dallas Laird was also concerned that the fees were too expensive.
“It stifles the ability to get information,” he said.
Explaining that he’s heard some citizens will request large amounts of records for the intended purpose of burdening the government, Vice Mayor Charlie Powell said he understood that there was a need for fees and suggested finding a middle ground.
Walsh advised amending the resolution to allow for one free hour of services so that those with smaller requests wouldn’t be charged. The rest of the council agreed and the amended resolution unanimously passed.
“I think its a very good compromise,” Napier said Wednesday.
The Wyoming State Supreme Court ruled a few years ago that it is legal for cities to charge a reasonable fee to locate and produce electronic public records, according to Bruce Moats, a Cheyenne attorney specializing in First Amendment matters who has also represented the Star-Tribune.
The fees set by the City Council are similar to those established by the State Department of Administration and Information, the attorney said Wednesday.
Although it’s legal, Moats said many are still concerned when they learn that there are costs to obtain public records.
“To me, it’s contrary to any professed desire for transparency when you enact these kind of charges,” he said.