Fee policy violates IPRA

Santa Fe, N.M. — April 11, 2019 — The New Mexico Attorney General today issued a determination stating the Santa Fe Regional Emergency Communications Center’s (RECC) fee policy “plainly violates the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA),” and its insistence on charging a Santa Fe reporter $30 for a tape of a 911 call is also a “troubling” violation.  

The AG’s office announced the determination in a letter following complaints by Andrew Oxford, a reporter with the Santa Fe New Mexican.  The opinion letter specifically states Oxford’s complaint was evidence for the determination adding, “the RECC violated IPRA by proposing an unlawful copying fee. We also direct the RECC to reevaluate its IPRA fee policy and charge Mr. Oxford only its actual costs of transmitting or downloading the electronic records.”

“The AG’s findings reaffirm the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government’s (FOG) position that records are vital to producing complete and accurate reporting for the public on important issues,” Melanie J. Majors, FOG executive director, said. 

In October 2018, Oxford filed an IPRA request asking for audio tapes of 911 calls and was told to complete a formal IPRA request form which stated the RECC’s policy “charges $30 for the release of any and all requested audio recordings.”  Oxford strenuously objected to the proposed $30 fee as he said,  “it is not reflective of the RECC’s actual costs of copying the requested electronic files.”

Oxford filed an appeal with the AG’s office outlining the RECC fee policy which he said were unreasonable and asked the AG to direct the RECC to provide the records for a fee in line with actual costs.  Oxford also outlined research showing the costs for compact disks and for thumb drives was below the $30 price set by RECC. 

In the letter, the AG’s office states IPRA entitles the public to the greatest possible information about governmental affairs. The letter also pointed out that “IPRA governs the fees that a public body may charge a requestor in connection with a public records request, and fees for copies of public records are only permissible if they comply with IPRA’s specific requirements.”

IPRA allows government entities to charge the “actual costs” of transmitting the requested records to the requestor, but may not charge for the time employees spend determining whether individual records are subject to disclosure. IPRA allows government entities to charge a fee for printed records not to exceed $1 per page. The only fee that can be charged for electronic records is the actual costs for downloading or transmission.

IPRA also does not allow the inclusion of employee time spent doing “research” into requests.