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911 service’s $30 records fee violates law, state Attorney General’s Office says

April 13, 2019

Would you pay $30 for one compact disc?

That is what Santa Fe’s 911 center has been charging for copies of public records provided on CD.

The state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday that the fee plainly violates New Mexico’s open records law, which allows governments to only charge the actual cost of providing electronic files requested by the public.

Assistant Attorney General John Kreienkamp told the Regional Emergency Communications Center to revisit its fee policies after The New Mexican filed a complaint last year accusing its staff of overcharging.

The New Mexican requested recordings of 911 calls from a single incident in October.

But the newspaper refused to sign off on the dispatch center’s standard $30 fee for the recordings.

Emergency communications center staff told the newspaper the fee is based on the average time it takes employees to compile such records and the cost of storage devices, such as CDs.

The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act says that when it comes to digital records, governments can only charge the actual costs of downloading documents to a CD or storage device and sending the device to the person who requested the files.

“We conclude that the [center] violated IPRA by proposing an unlawful copying fee. We also direct the [center] to reevaluate its IPRA fee policy,” Kreienkamp wrote.

The dispatch center’s director did not immediately respond to an inquiry from the newspaper Thursday afternoon asking if he would revise the fees his staff charge the public.