First Half-Hour Free, $20 Per Hour Thereafter
MONTROSE – To offset the costs incurred by large and extensive Colorado Open Records Act requests, the Montrose Board of County Commissioners on Monday approved a resolution that sets forth a set of procedures, including a $20-per-hour charge, when CORA requests take staff longer than 30 minutes to complete.
“We continuously receive requests for public information, which we endeavor to fulfill,” County Manager Jesse Smith said prior to passage of the resolution. “The purpose of this resolution is to put in writing what the [State] statute says and requires us to do, and then establish a fee of $20 per hour for documents that have to be created or analyzed.”
Smith reiterated that the county will always honor CORA requests, per state statute, but that recent large CORA requests have forced the county into charging for staff times. The county recently received a request that took a total of 12 staff hours to deliver, he said, and when the documents were presented, the recipient them glanced at them briefly, and walked away.
“This policy establishes a retrieval fee in responding to public records requests,” County Attorney Robert Hill said. “The first half hour is free.”
Montrose resident Roger Brown said he was “unalterably opposed” to the resolution. Brown suggested that such a resolution should be made available for public review and further discussion.
“You need to be responsible for what you do,” Brown said. “To say [documents] are available for rate of $20 per hour is arbitrary. This is just rubbish. I encourage you to take it from the agenda today and put it into the public purview.”
Brown also suggested that such a high fee would act as a deterrent to requests for public documents, going on to accuse the county of “stonewalling” access to county records.
Resident Wally Smith saw it differently. “I have had property in the county for well over 25 years,” Smith said. “I totally disagree with Mr. Brown. I have never been stonewalled. These people that request a lot of things, they need to pay for it. I think Roger Brown is way off- base.”
Hill reiterated that nothing in the policy changes the impact of CORA. The policy adopts all definitions for what is and what is not public record and attaches the retrieval fee.
“Sometimes you get a request for a large number of records – all records concerning county business going back for a 10-year period. How do you respond?” Hill said. “Under CORA, we are obligated. You do the best you can.”
All three of the commissioners agreed that the fee was needed and unanimously supported the resolution. While their fees may differ, both Ouray and San Miguel counties also have policies in place to cover the costs incurred for large CORA requests.
“This is what is going to have to be done. There is a cost attached to it,” Commissioner Gary Ellis said. “It’s up to the citizen to make a decision if they are willing to incur the costs.”