FOG encourages uniform DVD fees

ALBUQUERQUE– The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, FOG, has been notified by the City of Albuquerque and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety of new policies in regard to charges they will impose for DVDs and CDs in response to public records request. The policies result, in part, from complaints to FOG from journalists and citizens about the amount of such charges, as well as their inconsistent application.

The City of Albuquerque, which includes the Albuquerque Police Department, and DPS now will charge no more than $6.75 for downloading records to a DVD and $2.75 for a CD.  Under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, IPRA, a public body may charge the actual costs associated with downloading such documents.  The statute specifies that a public records custodian may impose fees no greater than $1.00 per printed page that are 11 x 14 inches in size or smaller but no comparable guidelines address electronic copies.

“Although the Attorney General’s Compliance Guide to IPRA does not give any direction on what is reasonable, the AG’s office itself charges the $6.75 and $2.75 fees for records requests it receives,” explained Kathi Bearden, FOG president. “We think those amounts should be the maximum permitted although there’s a strong argument the costs should be even lower because blank DVD’s can be purchased at office supply stores for less than a dollar.”

FOG is aware that a number of public bodies include in their fees the personnel time in downloading documents to a DVD or CD but FOG’s position is that such costs should not be passed along to the requestor.

“We believe part of the job responsibilities of a records custodian and other public employees is to respond to public records requests,” said Ms. Bearden. “Nothing in IPRA authorizes personnel costs to be included in calculations for public records responses.”

In an informal survey, FOG found a range of charges for records delivered on DVDs and CDs—from no charge to $20 per DVD.

“We hope with clarification of the fee schedules by two of New Mexico’s largest public bodies—the City of Albuquerque and the Department of Public Safety—all local and state agencies will readjust their fees to cap DVD and CD charges so we can have uniformity across the state,” Ms. Bearden added.