Town of Mills Wants $28K from Resident for Records
The Town of Mills is asking for more than $28,000 to fulfill a public records request from a resident
On July 17, Mills resident Leah Juarez requested that the town provide copies of invoices, assets, account balances and the contract between the Mills Professional Firefighters Association and the town.
Instead, Juarez received a certified letter this week indicating that the town could produce those records — but at a cost.
"As you know, we are in receipt of your request for public records. Our staff has looked at your request and estimated that the number of pages that are involved are approximately 52,162 and [gathering] the information will take approximately 50 hours," a letter signed by Mills Town Clerk Christine Trumbull reads.
Juarez would have to ante up $26,081 for the town to copy the records at a rate of 50 cents per copy. The town claimed it will take 60 hours find those records and meet Juarez request. To do that, town wants $35 an hour or $2,100.
That's a total of $28,818, a rate a public records law expert deemed excessive.
"Fifty cents a page is too high," Cheyenne Attorney Bruce Moats said. "They're not supposed to be making a profit off of this thing. To me, 50 cents is too high."
It costs roughly 10 cents per page to make copies at FedEx.
"They love to do this and assume your request is as broad as possible so they can rack up the fees," Moats said. He added that the items Juarez requested are public record and should be fairly easy to produce.
Juarez said she was concerned about discrepancies in the town's budget over the past few years. In April, the town voted to end its salaried fire department, citing budget issues. However, the town reached an agreement with the firefighters union and will continue operating a fire department until at least next July.
The items Juarez requested are a "normal part of business functions."
"And they don't even have an accounting of that," Juarez said. "There's basic accounting missing here."
Said Moats, "I don't know why she couldn't inspect those kinds of things. They ought to come in hard-copy form, I'd think."
If Mills keeps its records in paper form, Moats said, the town can't charge the $2,100 retrieval fee.
Mills Town Clerk Christine Trumbull declined to comment on the matter and said the town has passed the issue along to Town Attorney Patrick Holscher. At the time of publication, Holscher has not returned a voicemail.