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Policy spells out costs and procedures for public information requests

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Open Records Request graphic

After looking at the issue for a number of meetings, the Denison City Council approved a policy for requests for public records on Tuesday.

The policy sets out consistent standards and procedures and spells out who is the custodian of the records (the city clerk or the city clerk’s designee).

It sets out other standards for the examination, copying and retrieval of public records, many of which are according state code.

The policy, as presented to the city council, listed charges for employee time involved in providing the requested information. It listed the hourly rates for work done by the city clerk ($43.22), deputy clerk ($20.07) and the administrative assistant ($17.18).

Councilman Corey Curnyn said for the sake of transparency, the hourly rate should be one amount.

Councilwoman Jessica Garcia expanded on Curnyn’s comments by, as she said, playing devil’s advocate, envisioning situations in which a requester might say the city clerk did the work so the city could charge more, or the administrative assistant did the work so the fee would be less.

The council decided to set the rate at the average of the deputy clerk and administrative assistant’s wage, which is $18.93, and for simplicity’s sake the council rounded it up to $19 an hour.

People requesting information would also pay for contracted labor, such as IT and legal services, if needed.

The policy is not intended to preclude verbal responses to routine requests for simple information. It also states that the city is required to provide reasonable access to or copies of documents of information in the city’s custody and that the city is not required to create reports, documents or other records in response to a public records request.

It sets out that the city will respond with a cost estimate and time frame once a request has been made. The person requesting the information will be charged for research taking more than 15 minutes and any duplication services necessary to cover the request. Requests for information must be acknowledged within 20 days of the verification of the receipt of the request.

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