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Kane County charging $27,000 for one taxpayer records request



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KANE COUNTY -- Kane County in Southern Utah is charging $27,000 for a single public records request. A member of a taxpayer association wants the county's spending records. But that price tag is making it very difficult.

BYU journalism professor Joel Campbell said, "A $27,000 bill basically shuts down the ability to get to that information."

It seems that Kane County is playing hardball with the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) request. Campbell sure thinks so.

The Tax Association of Kane County has requested spreadsheets, reports and summaries showing itemized expenses. Basically, they want to see where their tax money is going.

What is... GRAMA?
The Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) is a comprehensive law dealing with management of government records. GRAMA states who has access to records and how the law is enforced. It is an attempt to balance the public's constitutional right of access to information concerning public business, the individual's constitutional right of privacy when the government gathers personal data, and the public policy interest in allowing a government to restrict access to certain records for the public good. -Utah Attorney General

Over the past few years, property taxes have nearly doubled. In that time, Kane County has been fighting court battles to get control of roads on public lands.

Citizens want to know if their money is going to pay for those lawsuits, appeals and attorney fees -- meaning they want to see, billing forms, receipts, statements or records.

But all that is going to cost money.

"GRAMA says that you should only be able to charge for the actual costs for duplication, and it seems to me this is way over the top," Campbell said.

Kane County also says it could take years to compile all the requested data.

The county attorney suggests being more specific with the request, saying "It will lower your cost, and the county's time, perhaps substantially."

So far, the county has turned over 56 pages of information, some documentation of legal expenses and spreadsheets. But the taxpayer's association says it's less than half of what it's asking for.

Campbell says GRAMA law allows for those acting in the public's interest to get a fee waiver.

"I think it's obvious that Kane County knows these folks can't afford a $27,000 bill, and therefore they're not going to get the information," Campbell said.

Kane County says they won't waive the fee because they don't want to set a precedent.

Campbell says they'll be submitting more GRAMA requests.

The Kane County attorney did not return any phone calls today.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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Nicole Gonzales

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