“When these fees are this high, it creates a very chilling effect on public records”
These are public documents related to a research partnership with China. What’s up with the huge fee?
The Washington Free Beacon reports:
University of Michigan Demands $1,200 for China Documents
The University of Michigan refused to turn over public documents related to its $25 million research partnership with China unless it receives more than $1,200 in fees, an “extreme” request that experts said prevents transparency.
The Beijing Institute of Collaborative Innovation (BICI) offers robotics and technology researchers millions in funding as well as priority access to the Chinese market. The Washington Free Beacon filed a Freedom of Information Act request for specific documents associated with the lucrative program in January. The taxpayer-funded university, however, demanded $1,204 in fees before releasing the documents.
Modest fees are common in FOIA offices and generally cover expenses related to information gathering and photocopying. But some transparency experts were alarmed by the steep demand, saying that high fee costs can inhibit the public’s right to records.
Steve Delie, who has filed multiple FOIA lawsuits against the University of Michigan, said that he has heard of FOIA cases that charged more than $30,000 in fees. He said that the high fees—coupled with long wait times that exceed the statutory deadline—are a serious obstacle to government transparency and discourage Michiganders from acquiring public documents that they have the right to see.
“When these fees are this high, it creates a very chilling effect on public records because your average citizen is unable to gain access to what should be publicly available information,” Delie said. “Even institutional entities like the media have difficulty getting prompt responses or justifying the expense for the information being sought.”
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.