SPLC Sues after Kansas College Demands $24,000 in Public Records Fees

October 5, 2011

After multiple open records requests by the Johnson County Community College (JCCC) newspaper The Campus Ledger and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), the SPLC, along with one of the Campus Ledger‘s former editors, is suing JCCC over the outlandish fees charged by the college to comply with the request.

As the SPLC reported yesterday, "The college estimated a total of $24,130.72 to fulfill requests by the SPLC and former copy editor Marcus Clem for staff emails and documents related to other open records requests." I’m aware that complying with public records requests can be costly and inconvenient, and there is a reasonable extent to which the costs of compliance can be borne by the petitioner, but I sure do look forward to seeing JCCC justify itself here. According to this document provided to SPLC in response to one of its requests, JCCC estimated costs of $9,745.96 to retrieve a single day’s worth of emails between two JCCC administrators. SPLC writes, "Contributing to that figure is $5,250 to contract an outside agency for 25 hours of work at $210 per hour." (Unrelated note-who is this outside agency, and are they hiring?)

I joked via Twitter to the SPLC’s Adam Goldstein that JCCC might as well have asked the SPLC to provide them with a very nicely equipped Ford Focus. In fact, it turns out with that kind of money you could even get an entry-level Mustang (starting at $22,310) or Chevrolet Camaro ($22,805). I imagine, though, that shelling out the money for a muscle car is somewhat more gratifying than paying that same amount of money to be able to review documents state agencies are obligated to provide. As SPLC Executive Director Frank LoMonte put it, "Public records belong to the public, and there’s not supposed to be a mark-up so that agencies can make a windfall profit by selling the public’s own information back to us." Amen to that.