David Cuillier Comments on High Fees Associated with Public Records Requests
David Cuillier, director of the Brechner Freedom of Information Project, is quoted in “What Are They Hiding? State Agency Quotes High Fees to Bog Down Requests” published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sept. 8, 2023
The article focuses on public records requests made by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to find out more information on complaints received from people during the pandemic. Some were not receiving their unemployment insurance checks, were victims of fraudulent claims, or received unexpected overpayment notices from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.
When the newspaper requested records to look into the problems this year, the agency responded with a series of demands for money, including $650,000 to review emails about the backlog of claims.
Cuillier said excessive copy fees are one of the most common barriers people have in accessing their government. Sometimes agencies use fees to force a requester to narrow the requested information.
“It’s a problem because they’re used as a weapon of secrecy,” Cuillier said. “Often, if they want someone to go away, they’ll say, ‘We’ll give this to you, but we’ll charge you $50,000.’ An agency can point out how much time and taxpayer resources it would cost to fulfill a hefty request, possibly bogging down the agency.”
According to Cuillier, “We have to find something reasonable in the middle. But it’s really up to the agency to find that reasonable sweet spot, and too often that doesn’t happen. They just throw some big number, and hope you go away and really won’t discuss it further.”