Utilizing Iowa’s Open Records laws is often one avenue businesses, news media, and individuals use to obtain information. On July 19, 2017, the Iowa Court of Appeals reiterated that Iowa law permits public entities to recover their costs for complying with an open records request. See Hackman v. New Hampton Municipal Light Plant, No. 16-2063 (Iowa Ct. Appeals July 19, 2017).
In Hackman, the New Hampton Municipal Light Plant sought to charge an individual, Jacob Hackman, $828.30 for services performed in response to Hackman’s open records request as well as $75.80 for copies. Hackman filed a lawsuit against the Plant challenging the Plant’s ability to charge such fees. Citing Iowa Code Section 22.3, the Iowa Court of Appeals concluded “the fees charged by the Plant were authorized by statute.” In support of its decision, the Court underscored the fact that the Plant had a “written policy outlining a $35 per hour fee for research related to complying with an open records request.”
In addition to reiterating the ability for a public entity to recover specified costs, this opinion highlights the importance: (1) for businesses and individuals to understand if, and how, a public entity will charge for services performed in response to an open records request; and (2) for public entities to implement a clear, written policy relative to any fees charged for services in response to an open records request.