Limiting Your Right to Know - 

First Commissioners went along with Mayor Arp's policy

Now state lawmakers propose following Arp's lead!

 

.

Mayor Arp Copy Fee receipt for 220 copies, total cost $43.56. Commissioners voted to reimburse him while you must pay for yours & all other bills.

Public Comment Proposed Public Record Fees

By: Pat Hunter

September 2, 2008

On June 20, 2008, Governor Phil Bredesen signed an update of the state's open records law. The new law creates a 7-day deadline for records custodians to respond to public records requests. If more time is needed, they must explain the basis of the denial. Before the change, there was no set time to respond to the request.

Mayor Arp spent over $50,000 in legal fees just so he could impose his public records policy while county commissioners stood by his side.

What do you think about spending $2.69 for one county employee to make 5 copies of public records? Mayor Arp's copy fees was $43.56 for 220 copies, which were made by a county employee(s) and then stuffed in employee envelopes.  Copies cost 7 or 8 cents in the private sector but not when government makes copies. Taxpayers pay for all the equipment and personnel the first time in some fashion with property taxes, city, county and state taxes but now the state wants to set rules to charge for labor for copy fees.    

 

 

 

 

The Memphis Appeal newspaper filed a lawsuit with the City of Memphis over public records denials. According to the paper, “Memphis City Atty. Elbert Jefferson Jr. cited the request in testimony to a House subcommittee to help persuade members to adopt more restrictive rules on government records.” "But what Jefferson didn't tell the panel was that the press wanted to use the records to see if the city was doing enough to protect children from convicted sexual predators driving around Memphis neighborhoods in ice cream trucks." The House subcommittee believed Jefferson and that appears to be the basis for the more restrictive public records policy for frequent and multiple public records requests. 

The core Mission of the Comptroller’s office is “ To improve the quality of life for all Tennesseans by making government work better. Many of these proposed changes will be a burden to citizens and will hamper the public’s right to know and to hold government accountable. Please voice your concerns.

Your Right to Know how Government is Proceeding - Proposed Fees

.

Senator Randy McNally speaking about open government, public records and Sunshine Law.

Ms. Butterworth is the Director of Open Records and she wants to hear your public comments. Please cc to state officials and let them know how you feel about these proposed fees:

Subject: Proposed Fees

Governor Phil Bredesen: phil.bredesen@state.tn.us,

Senator Randy McNally: sen.randy.mcnally@legislature.state.tn.us

Representative Jimmy Matlock: rep.jimmy.matlock@legislature.state.tn.us

Representative Dennis Ferguson: rep.dennis.ferguson@legislature.state.tn.us

Ms. Ann Butterworth, Office of Open Records: open.records@state.tn.us

(Written comments for consideration at the hearing must be received before the close of business on Wednesday, September 3, 2008). Anyone wanting to comment at the hearing must register in advance by either sending an email to open.records@state.tn.us or calling the OORC at (615) 401-7891 prior to noon CST on Thursday, September 4, 2008. Each participant commenting will be limited to three (3) minutes.

Contact:

Ann Butterworth, Director, Office of Open Records Counsel

Office of Open Records Website: http://comptroller.state.tn.us/openrecords/

(615) 401-7891 open.records@state.tn.us

Elisha Hodge, Open Records Specialist, Office of Open Records Counsel

(615) 401-7891 open.records@state.tn.us

Roxanna Pierce, Communications Officer (615) 401-7806 roxanna.pierce@state.tn.us

 

Public Meeting - September 5, 2008: http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/repository/NR/PublicMeeting.pdf

 

*****************************************

 

 

PROPOSAL

SCHEDULE AND POLICY COMMENT FORM

 

Section 6 of Public Chapter 1179, Acts of 2008 adds T.C.A. Section 8-4-604(a)(1) which requires the Office of Open Records Counsel to establish a schedule of reasonable charges which a records custodian may use as a guideline to charge a citizen requesting copies of public records under the Tennessee Public Records Act (T.C.A. Sections 10-7-501 et seq.)(“TPRA”). Public Chapter 1179 further directs the Office to establish a separate policy related to reasonable charges a records custodian may charge for frequent and multiple requests for public records.

 

Application of either the schedule of reasonable charges or the policy shall not be arbitrary. Any charge included in the schedule of reasonable charges or permitted under the policy may be reduced or waived in whole or in part, if in accordance with a duly promulgated rule. Public Chapter 1179 adds T.C.A. Section 10-7-503(a)(7)(A) expressly prohibits a records custodian from charging a fee for inspection under the TPRA unless otherwise required by law.

 

In conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Open Government, the Office of Open Records Counsel is seeking comment on the following with respect to the Schedule:

 

SCHEDULE AND POLICY COMMENT FORM

 

Section 6 of Public Chapter 1179, Acts of 2008 adds T.C.A. Section 8-4-604(a)(1) which requires the Office of Open Records Counsel to establish a schedule of reasonable charges which a records custodian may use as a guideline to charge a citizen requesting copies of public records under the Tennessee Public Records Act (T.C.A. Sections 10-7-501 et seq.)(“TPRA”).  Public Chapter 1179 further directs the Office to establish a separate policy related to reasonable charges a records custodian may charge for frequent and multiple requests for public records

 

Application of either the schedule of reasonable charges or the policy shall not be arbitrary.  Any charge included in the schedule of reasonable charges or permitted under the policy may be reduced or waived in whole or in part, if in accordance with a duly promulgated rule.  Public Chapter 1179 adds T.C.A. Section 10-7-503(a)(7)(A) expressly prohibits a records custodian from charging a fee for inspection under the TPRA unless otherwise required by law.

 

In conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Open Government, the Office of Open Records Counsel is seeking comment on the following with respect to the Schedule:

 

SCHEDULE OF REASONABLE CHARGES FOR COPIES OF PUBLIC RECORDS

 

Copy Charges

  • A records custodian may assess a charge of up to 20 cents per page for each standard, 8 ½ x11 or 8 ½ x14 black and white copy produced.

 

  • If a public record is maintained in color and the requestor specifically requests a color copy, a records custodian may assess a charge of up to 50 cents per page for each 8 ½ x11 or 8 ½ x14 color copy produced. 

 

  • If a record custodian’s actual costs are higher than those reflected above, the custodian may develop its own charges.  The custodian must establish a schedule of charges documenting “actual cost” and state the calculation and reasoning for its charges.  A schedule of charges without this analysis is insufficient. 

 

  • If a record custodian determines that certain information (i.e. pie charts, graphs, etc.) within requested records has more relevance when produced in color, the records custodian shall advise the requestor that the record can be produced in color if the requestor is willing to pay a charge higher than that of a black and white copy.

 

  • The charge for a duplex copy shall be the same as the charge for two (2) separate copies.

 

  • The schedule of reasonable charges makes no distinction in the charge assessed an individual requesting records under the TPRA based on the intended use of the record, whether for research, personal, or commercial.  Other statutory provisions, such as T.C.A. Section 10-7-506(c), enumerate fees that may be assessed when specific documents are requested for a specific use.

 

Additional Production Charges

  • A records custodian shall be expected to provide records to a requestor through means of the United States Postal Service or in hand delivery when the requestor returns to the custodian’s office to retrieve the requested records.  It is within the discretion of a records custodian to deliver records through other means, including electronically.  If the requestor chooses not to return to the records custodian’s office to retrieve the copies, then the cost incurred by the records custodian in delivering the records may be assessed in addition to any other permitted charge.

 

  • If a records custodian utilizes an outside vendor to produce copies of requested records because the custodian is legitimately unable to produce the copies in his/her office, the cost assessed by the vendor to the governmental entity may be recovered from the requestor.

 

  • If the records custodian is assessed a charge to retrieve requested records from a county public records commission, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, or from any other entity having possession of requested records, the records custodian may assess the requestor the cost assessed the governmental entity for retrieval of the records.    

                                                                                                                                                               

Labor Charges

  • A custodian is permitted to charge the hourly wage of the employee(s) reasonably necessary to produce the requested records above the “labor threshold” (defined below).  The “hourly wage” is based upon the employee(s) base salary, and does not include benefits.  The charge may include but is not limited to the time spent reviewing, redacting, and reproducing copies of the requested records.  A records custodian shall utilize the most cost efficient method of producing the requested records.

 

  • “Labor threshold” for a records custodian in a department with a staff of twenty (20) or fewer employees is defined as the labor of the employee(s) reasonably necessary to produce requested material for the first two (2) hours incurred by the records custodian in producing the material.  For a records custodian in a department with a staff of more than twenty (20) employees, the “labor threshold” is defined as the labor of the employee(s) reasonably necessary to produce requested material for the first four (4) hours incurred by the records custodian in producing the material.

 

  • In calculating the charge for labor or the “man-hours” spent producing the records, a records custodian shall determine the hourly wage of each employee reasonably necessary to produce the request, based upon that employee’s base salary.  Then the custodian is to multiple the number of hours each employee spent producing the request by that employee’s hourly wage.  The records custodian will then add together the total for all of the employees involved in producing the request.  Next, the records custodian will multiply the hourly wage of the highest paid employee by the number of hours of the labor threshold which is not to be charged and subtract that amount from the overall total.

 

Example.  There are 20 employees in the department where the records are requested.  Employee #1 hourly wage is $15.00.  Employee #2 hourly wage is $20.00.  Employee #1 spends 2 hours on a request and Employee #2 spends 3 hours on the request.  The total amount for labor or man-hours that can be assessed is $50.00.

 

The total wages of the employees who worked on the request is $90= ($15x2) + ($20x3)=$30+$60.  The permitted charge is $50=$90-($20x2)=$90-40 (hourly wage of the highest paid employee multiplied by the number of hours for which labor cannot be charged based upon department size).

           

 

Additionally, in conjunction with the Advisory Committee on Open Government, the Office of Open Records Counsel is seeking comment on the following with respect to the Policy:

 

POLICY RELATED TO REASONABLE CHARGES A RECORDS CUSTODIAN MAY CHARGE FOR FREQUENT AND MULTIPLE REQUESTS FOR PUBLIC RECORDS

 

·       In calculating the “labor threshold”, the custodian may aggregate time spent during the calendar month on all TPRA requests by the requestor.  Additionally, if the records custodian reasonably believes the requestor to be acting in concert with or as agent of another person, entity or organization, the records custodian can aggregate the time spent on all of those TPRA requests.  Disputes as to aggregation shall be brought to the Office of Open Records Counsel.

 

 

 ********************************************************

Limiting Your Right to Know - Proposed Fees

 

How do you hold government accountable when you can't afford to see public records?

Other Resource Information: To read the actual law: http://state.tn.us/sos/acts/105/pub/pc1179.pdf

Public Records Law - PUBLIC CHAPTER NO. 1179, SENATE BILL NO. 3280, By McNally, Haynes, Burchett, Tracy, Williams, Watson, Substituted for: House Bill No. 3637 By McDaniel, Eldridge, DuBois

 

Tennessee Comptroller: http://www.comptroller.state.tn.us/

 

 

Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury
State of Tennessee
Core Ideology/Mission Statement

 

 Our Core Values:

  • Honesty and Integrity-- We must be honest in all we do and say in order to reflect the highest degree of integrity.
  • Accuracy and Reliability-- The work we produce must be relevant, correct, professional and objective. Decision-makers and their publics must be able to depend on our work.
  • Accountability-- We must accept personal responsibility for the work we each perform and the Office must take organizational responsibility for the work we collectively perform.

 

 Our Purpose:

 Our Purpose is to serve the people of Tennessee by:

  • Contributing to the protection of the public trust and promoting the public interest;
  • Enhancing effective public policy decisions at all levels of government; and,
  • Fulfilling operational and oversight responsibilities as may be assigned with the highest possible degree of excellence, efficiency and effectiveness.

 

 Our Mission:

To improve the quality of life for all Tennesseans by making government work better.

 

 

 

PUBLIC COMMENT – from Butterworth’s office

Both oral and written comments, limited to the fees proposed in the Schedule and Policy Comment Form, may be submitted. The form is available for download at www.comptroller.state.tn.us/openrecords. Anyone wanting to comment at the hearing must register in advance by either sending an email to open.records@state.tn.us or calling the OORC at (615) 401-7891 prior to noon CST on Thursday, September 4, 2008. Each participant commenting will be limited to three (3) minutes. Written comments for consideration at the hearing must be received by the OORC before the close of business on Wednesday, September 3, 2008, and may be submitted by email to open.records@state.tn.us or delivered to OORC at 505 Deaderick Street, James K. Polk Bldg., Suite 1700, Nashville, TN 37243.

 

 

 BACK

09-02-08