Ferguson Officials Demand Exorbitant Fees for City Files Related to Michael Brown Killing

Ferguson Police Chief Jackson walks away from a media availability regarding his office's handling of the release of information following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson

By Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

City officials in Ferguson are charging ridiculous fees to media outlets, civil right groups, and the public seeking documents on the Michael Brown shooting and its aftermath.

The city has demanded high fees to produce copies of records that, under Missouri law, it could give away free if it determined the material was in the public’s interest to see. Instead, in some cases, the city has demanded high fees with little explanation or cost breakdown. It billed The Associated Press $135 an hour — for nearly a day’s work — merely to retrieve a handful of email accounts since the shooting.

That fee compares with an entry-level, hourly salary of $13.90 in the city clerk’s office, and it didn’t include costs to review the emails or release them. […]

Organizations like the website Buzzfeed were told they’d have to pay unspecified thousands of dollars for emails and memos about Ferguson’s traffic-citation policies and changes to local elections. The Washington Post said Ferguson wanted no less than $200 for its requests.

A city spokeswoman referred inquiries about public records requests to the city’s attorney, Stephanie Karr, who declined to respond to repeated interview requests from the AP since earlier this month.

AP reports that it has requested “copies of several police officials’ emails and text messages, including those belonging to Wilson and Chief Thomas Jackson,” for reporting on what was occurring behind the scenes as the city response to protests. They were told they had to pay $2,000 for a consulting firm that would spend as many as 16 hours to retrieve the emails from the city’s system.

Missouri public records law says that state and local bureaucracies can set fees that “result in the lowest charges for search, research and duplication.” Unless that research turns up incredibly damaging information, apparently.

Reprinted with permission from The Daily Kos.