A quarter a page is not an unusual sum set by California public agencies as a charge for making copies of public records requested by the public; quite the contrary.  But CalAware's Richard McKee is demanding that local agencies justify that nice round number in terms of their own actual costs.

As reported by Denise Madrid in the Porterville Recorder,

A nonprofit watchdog organization is demanding that the City of Lindsay reduce its charge for copies of public records from 25 cents per copy to 10 cents or face litigation.

The group, known as “Californians Aware,” professes that its mission is to “support and defend open government,” and follows Brown Act and Public Records Act cases throughout the state.

According to Richard McKee, Vice President for Open Government Compliance, the organization first became aware of what he believes to be the city’s excessive cost for copies of public records through a Google alert linking The Recorder’s report on Lindsay resident Steven Mecum’s public records requests to the City. Mecum had requested more than 35,000 pages of public records from the City that amounted to nearly a $9,000 charge.

The group issued a letter listing the demand for correction to the city manager and city clerk on Nov. 25 stating, “The City of Lindsay shall agree to reduce its charge for copies of public records to 10 cents per page, or demonstrate that its direct cost of duplication is some other amount. Should the City decide not to perform as demanded, we hereby make the following request for copies of public records: All records illustrating how the City determined its direct cost of duplication was 25 cents per page.”

McKee said that in most cases, the complaints made by the organization are readily recognized by the agency and made correct. He said Lindsay has already issued a response.

“Lindsay has already responded about their public records policy. They say they have a 21-year-old copy machine — when you’re talking about electronic things or duplication, 21 is ancient,” he said. “They determined this was the proper price.”

He also said that the City will receive a response from Californians Aware sometime today.

“The response is basically saying: Give us an answer that you intend to review this or we intend to litigate,” he said. “I just hope they respond appropriately.”