Special Report { High fees are keeping public information secret.

Officials Jack Up Charges to Keep Public Records From Being Released

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat

A common refrain from government officials who defend the high cost of public records is that it’s just too time-consuming to drop what they’re doing to dig through file cabinets or print out documents and make copies.

While it’s not unreasonable for governments to recoup some of these costs, open-ended charging policies can sometimes result in abuse, particularly if a records request might reveal potentially embarrassing information should it be made public.

“Probably more often than not it’s just government making sure that they’ve been fully compensated,” said Duane Bosworth, a media attorney based in Portland, Ore. “But I have no question that there are definitely situations in which a structure is created so that the costs will be prohibitively high.”

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