Monday, November 24, 2008

PA Open Records Office sets copying fees

Below is the first press release from the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. I hope it will be the first of many to come as Pennsylvania ushers in a new era of openness and accountability in government.

HARRISBURG -- Citizens will pay between 10 cents and 25 cents per page for public records under a fee structure established by the new Office of Open Records, Executive Director Terry Mutchler announced Monday.

"The fee structure established by our office is a reasonable way to ensure citizens have meaningful access to the records of their government and that public bodies are able to recoup the actual cost of the copies," Mutchler said.

The Right-To-Know law, signed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell on February 14, 2008, established the Office of Open Records to implement and enforce the Act. The law, which fully becomes effective January 1, 2009, charged the Office of Open Records with establishing fees pursuant to a right-to-know request.

Under the fee structure, a Commonwealth or Local Agency will be permitted to charge only the actual cost of reproduction for blue-prints, color copies, odd-sized materials and downloading records to computerized discs.

An agency may not charge citizens for the time it takes to determine whether the record is a public record. An agency may not charge for searching or retrieving the documents. An agency also may not charge staff time or salary for complying with a right-to-know request, and an agency is precluded from charging fees to redact, or black out, information that is exempt under the law.

"Nationally, duplication fees are one of the most abused areas of any government access law and, quite often, high fees are just another way to deny citizens access to their government," Mutchler said. "This fee structure guards against that."

Citizens also can choose to inspect records rather than obtain copies, under the law.

The Office of Open Records encouraged Judicial and Legislative agencies, which can set their own fees, to adopt the fee structure set by the Office of Open Records to promote uniformity throughout the Commonwealth.

The complete fee structure and information related to the Office of Open Records and the new law can be found at

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