WyoFile by Andrew Graham
June 5, 2018
Rules allowing state agencies to charge for public records received a surprising endorsement last month from the Wyoming Press Association, a traditional advocate for transparency that had previously opposed the fees.
The rules crafted by the Department of Administration & Information charge taxpayers for public employee time used to complete a public records request. Opponents — including the WPA — have argued the rules hurt transparency in Wyoming. Recently-retired WPA director Jim Angell testified before A&I in 2016 that fees could be used as an “obstacle in the way of someone searching for public documents.”
But WPA lobbyist Bob Bonnar told a legislative committee in Lander on May 22 that such rules make sense. The WPA is an association of 43 daily and weekly newspapers. WyoFile is an associate member of the organization.
“I think what A&I came up with last year is a pretty good start,” Bonnar told lawmakers on the Joint Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee. The committee held a wide ranging discussion on Wyoming’s public records laws, that included testimony for and against the new rules.
Bonnar, who is the editor and publisher of the Newcastle News Letter Journal, told lawmakers he understood that producing electronic public records cost money. He compared his costs as a publisher to the costs incurred by state agencies compiling public records.