Public Records Charges & Payments Policy
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources posted a new Public Records Request Policy Oct. 30, 2014. The policy shall be in effect for requests received on or after Nov. 1, 2014.
Below are some guidelines on public records requests for requestors. The full guidance document is available upon request.
An extensive public records request is defined as any that takes more than 4 hours to fulfill. This time limit includes all DENR staff involved in the request cumulatively.
After communicating with the requestor to try to better understand the documents being sought, DENR staff will estimate any special service or duplication charges and verify the requestor’s intent to proceed. DENR shall notify requestors as soon as possible if it becomes known that charges will exceed an estimate by a significant amount.
If the total estimated charge is greater than $25 the staff should ask the requestor to pay 50% of the estimated charges before the agency begins to fill the requestor. Location and production should not begin until the deposit is received. The requestor should pay the remaining balance prior to the agency releasing the records. If for any reason the final charge is less than the amount of the deposit, the agency shall return the remainder to the requestor.
- Multiple requests regarding the same issue made within a short period of time (1-2 weeks) from the same individual or organization shall be considered a single request for purposes of determining whether a special service charge will be levied.
It is the policy of this department that requests will be processed as expeditiously as possible. However, DENR staff must take care that records that contain unredacted confidential information, including records that constitute “trial preparation material,” are not released. The term “trial preparation material” includes matters in active litigation or that may become a matter of litigation to which the Department is a party.
If records need to be taken from a Department facility or worksite (for instance, if a facility does not have equipment that can duplicate large-format documents), then DENR staff must accompany the records at all times.
- Non-extensive requests are not subject to a special service charge, but duplication charges and digital media charges apply as follows:
- $0.05 per page for duplication
- The actual cost of any other digital media used to fulfill the request, unless otherwise agreed upon by DENR and the requestor
- Actual or estimated postage and packaging used to fulfill the request
- An extensive public records request is one that takes more than 4 hours to complete.
- The special service charge for extensive requests is calculated as the “actual time it takes to locate, copy and re-file the records requested.”
- Included in the total time:
- Time spent determining whether a document is responsive to the request or not
- Not included:
- Time needed to separate confidential from non-confidential information (e.g., redaction)
- Time spent reviewing the documents beyond determining whether it should be included in the request
- Time spent by a Public Information Officer or similar official to compile the request
- Included in the total time:
- Duplication and digital media charges apply consistent with the charges outlined above for non-extensive requests.
The special service charge for clerical or supervisory assistance shall approximate the hourly rate of pay plus benefits for the position of permanent, full-time Administrative Assistant I in the agency’s pay schedule. This is estimated to currently result in a rate of $18 per hour. Special service charges shall be not greater than the actual costs incurred.