Commentary: The University of New Mexico’s policy to assess fees for public records has been determined to be in violation of the State’s Inspection of Public Records laws.
“The New Mexico Attorney General has sided with the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government in determining that UNM’s proposed fees for the transfer of electronic records is a violation of state law,” Melanie J. Majors, NMFOG executive director, said. “The Inspection of Public Records Act prohibits any fee or charges for electronic copies,” she said. “Electronic data, unlike printed pages, is not stored nor provided to a requestor in ‘pages,’ and therefore a ‘per page’ charge for electronic data is automatically suspect. The actual cost to UNM to provide electronic data to a requestor is $0.”
Majors said the Attorney General made his determination in a letter following complaints by Andrew Lyman, a reporter with the New Mexico Political Report and FOG. In the AG’s opinion, FOG’s complaint was specifically cited as evidence for the determination, stating, “Mr. Lyman and FOG both maintain that a per-page fee for electronic records is ‘automatically suspect.’ ” The AG’s letter continued, “Based on our review of the evidence and applicable laws, we conclude that the University’s proposed fees violated IPRA. We direct the University to reevaluate its proposed fees in this case, charge only the actual costs for transmitting or downloading the electronic records, and otherwise provide the requested records to Mr. Lyman as soon as possible.” As an advocate for transparency in government, NMFOG’s mission is to defend the public’s right to know and to educate citizens and government agencies about their rights and responsibilities under New Mexico’s open-meetings and open-records laws. Founded in 1990, NMFOG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, member-supported organization that serves the open government interests of the general public, the business community, elected officials, journalists and lawyers. If you have any questions or concerns regarding IPRA or the OMA, you can contact the Hotline at 1-505-764-3750.