LL&D Law
Open Records Act - Part 3 -- Your Rights

by Susan B. Loving
12/22/2010 10:44:00 AM


     Two weeks ago we discussed what governmental entities must comply with the Act, and the types of records open to the public. Last week we addressed how to request records. This week, we address what a public body may charge to provide records, and your rights if the public body does not comply with the Act.
     A public body establishing fees under the Act must post a written fee schedule at its principal office and with the county clerk. Fees may not be used to discourage requests or as obstacles to disclosure of requested information.
     Generally, a public body may charge a fee only for recovery of the reasonable, direct costs of copying, not to exceed twenty-five cents per page for records of ordinary size, or One Dollar per page for a certified copy. However, if the request is solely for commercial purposes or would clearly cause excessive disruption of the essential functions of the public body, the public body may charge a reasonable fee to recover the direct cost of record search and copying.
     The Act does not provide a deadline for complying with requests but requires “prompt, reasonable access” to records. What is reasonable will depend on the request, but in our opinion, you should expect at least an acknowledgement of your request within a week or two.
     Any public official who willfully violates any provision of Act is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding Five Hundred Dollars, imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or both. In addition, a person denied access to records of a public body or public official may bring a civil suit and if successful, is entitled to reasonable attorney fees. However, if the public body successfully defends the suit and the court finds the suit was clearly frivolous, the public body is entitled to reasonable attorney fees.



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