Colorado makes progress on cost of open records

From the Associated Press (via CBS4):  A 2014 Colorado law to cap search fees for open-records requests has led to significant price decreases for the public, with some agencies dropping fees more than a third.

But Colorado still has work to do to make more records available digitally, which could reduce costs even further, according to watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch.

The search-fee law caps the cost of retrieving public records at $30 an hour, with the first hour free. Before then, government agencies charged a wide range of fees after court rulings that search fees should be “nominal,” but with no further detail.

“You had governments charging nothing to $20 an hour to $195 an hour, depending if they were going to have attorney review records for redaction,” said Jeff Roberts, head of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

The bill to change that state of affairs came after a 2013 report from Colorado Ethics Watch, which checked search fees in various counties and cities. The report concluded that steep research and retrieval fees hindered transparency.

“Transparency in government is too important to be limited to a handful of groups or individuals who can afford to pay charges for time spent disclosing documents about public business,” authors concluded.

Fees have dropped in many areas, or at least become more predictable, since the passage of the $30-an-hour limit.

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