The fastest way to put government documents beyond the reach of the public is to charge a “retrieval fee” or a “search fee” to go get the documents.
Kim Pierce, a candidate for sheriff in Sevier County, Tennessee was recently charged $15.00 just to look at the three different components of one file, on the theory that each search for a document costs $5.00.
Ann Butterworth, head of the state’s public records ombudsman office said there’s no basis at all in the law to charge to let members of the public simply look at records.
Larry Waters, the sheriff of the county, is not in any hurry to refund Pierce her money, nor is he in any hurry to stop the policy. He’s going to check with the county attorney first. Waters is not happy with all the people asking for records: “We had people coming in asking to see 120 pages, not just five or something.”
Here’s a thought. If you have that many people looking for your records, you might have a problem. The problem is not going to be solved by being a passive-aggressive, stubborn obstructionist.
Sevier County has its own anti-corruption watchdog website: Sevier Corruption.