Notably high fee requests

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Michigan, 2009

  • Kathy Hoekstra of the Mackinac Center submitted a request to the Michigan Department of State Police regarding the state's handling of federal homeland security grant money. She was told that it would cost $6,876,303.90, with a downpayment of $3,438,151.95. Hoekstra's interest in the records was galvanized by a report from the Office of the Inspector General which, in the seven Michigan counties that were spot-checked, discovered a variety of problems, such as inadequate record-keeping, difficulty in locating emergency equipment, and a pervasive lack of required accountability systems.[1]

South Carolina, 2008

In November 2008, the 85 South Carolina school districts cumulatively asked for $400,000 to provide public documents in response to a request under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act from the South Carolina Policy Council (SCPC).

The SCPC requested documents on employee travel, catered meals and training services; specifically:

  • Documentation of funds spent on all in-state and out-of-state employee travel
  • Documentation of funds spent in relation to non-employee travel
  • Documentation of funds spent on in-state and out-of-state conference fees or seminars
  • Documentation of funds spent on catered meals
  • Documentation of funds spent on management and consultant services
  • Documentation of funds spent on education and training services – non-state
  • Documentation of funds spent on education and training services – state
  • Copies of any correspondence sent from teachers to students requesting they bring supplies or money to buy supplies, school trips, or any other school related needs

South Carolina's FOIA legislation allows districts to collect fees not to exceed the actual cost of searching for and making copies of records, and states that records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost to the person.

  • 12 districts quoted more than $10,000 for expense records.
  • 10 districts quoted $1,000 or less for the same request.

A provision in 2007's South Carolina state budget deliberations would have required local governments and school districts to post spending records online free of charge. The legislature did not approve this provision.

The SCPC's records request sought information that is available online for the state budget, and that would have been required, had the 2007 local budget online bill passed.

Two school districts, Sumter and Aiken, said they'd be able to provide the requested documents at no charge.

The Beaufort County School District said they'd need a check of $214,580 before fulfilling the document request. The county later acknowledged a clerical error and revised its figure to $55,388. The Beaufort district said it would be six months of staff time to collect the records. [2][3]

References

  1. Mackinac Center, "What Price Information? Try $7 million", November 10, 2009
  2. South Carolina Policy Council, "SC School Districts Demand $400,000 for Public Expense Records", December 8, 2008
  3. Palmetto Scoop, "Freedom of Information isn't free", December 8, 2008