Attorney general presses governor on open records
Special charges for producing "extensive" public records requests "violate the spirit and perhaps the legislative intent" of the state's public records laws.Posted — Updated
Under the policy, such charges are incurred "for any requests that require agency personnel more than 30 minutes to locate, copy and refile," Cooper writes. The special charge includes both the physical costs of making copies and the cost of the salaries and benefits of the state workers involved in making the copies.
WRAL News has paid or tentatively agreed to pay some special service charges under protest. The Associated Press and other news outlets have also encountered and protested the charges. Lawyers for media organizations met with the McCrory administration in the fall, but there has been no resolution to the complaints.
In his letter, Cooper acknowledges that some special charges are allowed by law, although the law is vague and does not clearly define what is allowed.
"It was neither the legislative intent nor the spirit of the public record laws to expect taxpayers to subsidize large, time consuming and expensive public records requests that we so frequently receive today," Stephens writes.
Stephens also chides Cooper for offering his perspective to local governments.
"I do not understand why you believe it to be a proper exercise of your official position as Attorney General to send unsolicited public policy advice on official state letterhead to local governments who have done nothing contrary to state law," Stephens writes.