Arizona city wants to stop abusive public records requests

paper-stackYuma, Arizona city officials met two days ago with state representatives and discussed their desire to make changes to Arizona’s public records laws.  Yuma Sun reported that Yuma officials want changes made to stop abusive public records requests.

Arizona currently has very open public records laws that allow for any citizen to request pretty much any public record. Unfortunately, some people take this to mean that they can request anything they want and a bunch of government employees have to go find the requested information or face a violation of the law. One example is the Arizona sheriff that is continuing to go after the birth records of the president.

The city is complaining that some people are abusing the system by making massive amounts of requests for records and only picking up a few of them.  Another issue Yuma officials mentioned is that the requestor is only charged the per page fee if they physically take the records.

The city would also like to see a change made so that they no longer have to post certain public records in the local newspaper.  Advertising in local newspapers is expensive and is a legacy requirement that doesn’t make sense since everyone is now using the Internet.  The city would prefer to be able to just post the public records on their website instead of having to advertise in the local paper.

Transparency in government is almost always a good thing but there is definitely a point at which it becomes ridiculous.  If a city is spending a large portion of their budget responding to public records requests made by a single citizen it only makes sense to have some portion of those costs passed on to the requestor.  Of course, it can’t be prohibitively expensive.  We need to make sure public records are always accessible for a reasonable cost for our government to remain accountable.