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Commissioners postpone action on charges for public records requests

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By Emile Hallez

Staff Writer

The Jeffco commissioners postponed again last week approving a measure that would charge the public for access to open records.

The public information department, headed by county spokeswoman Kathryn Heider, proposed a revised set of fees Oct. 11, though Commissioner John Odom took issue with a flat hourly charge of $34 for county staff to collect documents.

The revision was based on an average hourly rate derived from staff salaries. The commissioners had weeks ago rejected an initial proposal that would have charged residents up to $50 an hour for access to certain records. Though various county departments currently charge for time-intensive open-records requests, departments falling under the commissioners’ direct authority do not.

Odom said he needed an additional week to review the information. Commissioner Faye Griffin said that the $34-per-hour rate was somewhat arbitrary and that $20 to $25 would seem more reasonable.

Under the new proposal, the public would be charged for records requests that take county staff more than an hour to process. The public information department, which includes Heider and several other employees, could waive hourly fees charged by the department itself.

“I think it’s all in the scope of my job,” Heider said in an interview, noting that the public information department should not charge the public for its staff time. “It’s all part of a proposal. I have suggested that we not charge for public information time.”

Heider cited a recent records request apparently made by 9News that she said took 11 hours of staff time to address, including time spent redacting e-mail addresses of residents on numerous documents.

In an interview with the Courier, Heider said she did not know if e-mail-address redaction is a legal requirement but did say that it was a courtesy measure that was part of the records-collecting process.

“We feel that when a citizen sends in an e-mail, they should not end up on somebody’s spam list,” she said.

The commissioners are scheduled to again discuss the measure at a staff briefing Oct. 18. Official approval of the resolution would have to come at a public hearing, which would likely follow a week later and would allow time for public comment.

 

Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.