$.25 Claim Filed Against City of La Habra Heights for Charging to View Public Record.
There are 2 comments on the Whittier Daily News story from Apr 12, 2013, titled $.25 Claim Filed Against City of La Habra Heights for Charging to View Public Record.. In it, Whittier Daily News reports that:La Habra Heights, CA - It's not the money, it's the principle. That's why La HabraHeights.net editor, Stephen Blagden filed a claim for 25 cents with the city and that's not a typo. Blagden's unhappy the city charged him 25 cents to look at the 1978 election results. "They mailed me a letter the document was available and I had to pay 25 cents," he said. "I said, 'Why do I have to pay. I just want to see it.' I was told it's an electronic document and they needed to print it out." As a result, he filed a claim that was discussed in closed session Thursday by the City Council. No action was taken. City Manager Shauna Clark said these documents are only available electronically and can't just be viewed. That's why a fee of 25 cents was charged. "I didn't charge the cost of retrieving a record," Clark said. "I charged what it took it to make it viewable." In the long run, the city wants to have a records management system that will have all of its records available to everyone over the Internet, Clark said. Blagden said if the city doesn't change its policies and his claim is rejected, he's thinking about suing. As for why he wanted to look at the record, it's because someone else in the community had requested it. More at: La Habra Heights.net
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#1 Apr 14, 2013
""I didn't charge the cost of retrieving a record," Clark said. "I charged what it took it to make it viewable.""
And therein lies the law the City broke.
Can't charge for someone to view a record.
Should be interesting court case.
Let us know where and when.
#2 Apr 14, 2013
If bureaucratic stupidity were an Olympic sport, LHH deserves the gold medal.
It obviously cost the city far more than 25 cents to prepare and mail out this 25 cent invoice. Add in the staff time and city manager time spent to come up with this creative interpretation of the public records law, plus the city attorneys time spent meeting with the council and city manager behind closed doors to discuss the resulting legal challenge. The city has probably already spent $500.00 to collect 25 cents. Brilliant.
State law requires cities to allow the public to examine public records free of charge. It is impossible to examine a record unless it is viewable. Charging to make a public record viewable is just the latest of a long series of attempts by city bureaucrats (and their subordinates on the city council) to circumvent the states open meeting and public records laws.
BTW, the requested record was simply the results of a previous city election. Hardly an obscure or sensitive record of the sort one would expect would be available only in a non viewable format. For that matter, if the problem was that this document was only available in as an electronic document, why didnt the city simply offer to e-mail it to Mr. Blagdon or post it on the internet? After all, the CM stated that in the long run the city wants all of its records available to everyone over the internet. Perhaps this would have been a good place to start.
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