Moves to put price on public information must not be tolerated

An editorial from The Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The importance of the Freedom of Information Act is clearly written in West Virginia Code.

The “declaration of policy” is as follows:

“Pursuant to the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government which holds to the principle that government is the servant of the people, and not the master of them, it is hereby declared to be the public policy of the state of West Virginia that all persons are, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, entitled to full and complete information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of those who represent them as public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government they have created. To that end, the provisions of this article shall be liberally construed with the view of carrying out the above declaration of public policy.”

Unfortunately, the implementation of allowing access to public information is sometimes flawed.

This week, for example, Weston City Council unanimously passed the final reading of an ordinance allowing the city to charge a fee to recover the costs of accommodating open-records requests. That fee is equivalent to the rate of pay of the employee doing the search and records production.

Weston also will charge $1 per page for reproducing the records…

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