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FOIA admin fee?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by k8m4, Jul 21, 2015.

  1. k8m4

    k8m4 New Member

    Hey all, I tried to FOIA some pretty standard material from Univ. of Oregon and they sent me back a letter saying that they would charge me for the manpower it took to put the materials together. I've done like 50 FOIAs with other public universities in the last year and no one has ever charged me an administrative fee to compile the information.

    I could understand the cost of copying and mailing, but this is a separate charge from that. From the school's reply:

    The office also charges for the actual cost of making public records available. The charge includes, but is not limited to, staff costs for locating, gathering, summarizing, compiling, reviewing, tailoring or redacting the public records to respond to a request. The charge may also include the cost of time spent by an attorney in reviewing the public records, redacting material from the public records, or segregating the public records into exempt and nonexempt records. ​

    Has anyone else ever run into this situation? How did you respond? TIA.
  2. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

  3. k8m4

    k8m4 New Member

    Thanks, definitely helpful. I'd argue that my request falls under the "media representatives" qualification to have this fee waived, so I'm interested to know if any other media outlet had success with that argument.
  4. Matt Stephens

    Matt Stephens Well-Known Member

    First off, don't let them charge you for paper/copying. Tell them you'll take electronic copies and if they say they files are too big to email, bring them a USB drive. As for the fees, that's not unheard of. The main thing I'd do first is to keep on them to show you're serious about wanting these records. Often, an institution will threaten fees as a scare tactic to get you to back off before eventually caving or doing it at a much lower rate. Ask them about a fee waiver.
    franticscribe likes this.
  5. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    Totally legal. Welcome to big time Division I athletics and get used to it. It's a nice way they've learned to squash investigative reporting. They know newspapers, etc., are too cheap to actually pay the administrative fees. I've been threatened with this type of stuff many times.

    Ain't college athletics wonderful. Sure they're all about love of the game, honor, loyalty, blah, blah, blah, bullshit. Fuckin' hypocrites.
    SFIND, Baron Scicluna and donjulio15 like this.
  6. JohnHammond

    JohnHammond Well-Known Member

    People sometimes say things they don't really mean.
  7. k8m4

    k8m4 New Member

    Well, no. They're a business with an operating budget, too. That seems to be the hardest thing for our industry to grasp, and it's not like they try very hard to hide this fact.
  8. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    Every state is a little different in how they handle public records issues. I'm guessing based on your OP that you're not super familiar with Oregon's public records law. I'm not either, although I do a lot of open government work in my part of the country.

    My suggestion is to start with the Open Oregon group (Open Oregon - A Freedom of Information Coalition) to get a better understanding of what is allowed in Oregon. In most states where they have that "actual cost" language in the statute, that is not understood to mean staff time but to only include the "actual cost," e.g. paper and ink, for making the copy. Also, many state's offer a no-cost option to "inspect" the record, which should allow you to see it free and bring your own scanner/copier if you need copeis of specific pages.
  9. franticscribe

    franticscribe Well-Known Member

    No, they are not. If we cede ground that government is a business, then we will lose the battle on access. It is not in the best interest of any business to be completely transparent. Government, on the other hand, should be transparent so that our democracy can function. At a bare minimum voters need access to information so voters can decide whether or not their democracy is functioning the way they expect.
    SFIND likes this.
  10. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Not a business, actually. If it were, it'd pay taxes.
  11. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    If you really believe this, you're full of crap. They're an arm of the government that runs on state and federal tax dollars. As much damn government waste as there is and they want to charge for a few copies on an FOI request is bullshit. I think they can spare a few nickels to fulfill an FOI request.

    Sometimes the ignorance here is unbelievable.
  12. k8m4

    k8m4 New Member

    How did we get from a university to the government? Anyway, I appreciate your mention of the Open Oregon group. I'll check that out.
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