Are redaction fees reasonable?

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Greg Peck
February 5, 2013

State Rep. Garey Bies, a Republican from Sister Bay, has set a Friday noon deadline for fellow lawmakers to join him in sponsoring legislation that would allow records keepers to charge for time needed to delete sensitive information from documents.

The proposal comes on the heels of last year’s state Supreme Court ruling that barred records custodians from charging requestors for redaction expenses. The decision stemmed from a 2010 dispute between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Milwaukee Police Department over how the department classified crime data. The newspaper sued after the department demanded $4,000 to cover time it spent deleting, from hundreds of incident reports, information that state law deems confidential.

State law permits records keepers to charge fees for locating, reproducing and mailing documents to requesters. Sure, most requests can be handled quickly and without much staff time or expense. Others, however, involve hundreds of records and can require much time and money to comply. Why, argues Bies, should fiscally challenged local units of government be forced to pass along these costs to taxpayers?

Is there a flip side to Bies’ view? We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Wednesday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook

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