Our view: Records shouldn’t come with a price tag | Gloucester Times

In Massachusetts, the fee schedule for records featured prominently in a recent rewrite of the state’s open record laws. City and town clerks, and their advocates at the Massachusetts Municipal Association, lobbied for the authority to charge for their time.

As a result, in addition to the 5 cents per page allowed by law, someone asking for a public document should be ready to pay up to $25 per hour for the time an official or town employee spends tracking down their documents. A member of the public can ask for the intercession of the state Supervisor of Public Records, but the law is clear. If you really want a document, you should be ready to get out your wallet.

It’s not conducive to transparency. Allowing hefty price tags to be imposed on public records is a good strategy of ensuring members of the public cannot afford to see them — and eventually will stop asking for them.

Which is certainly what some government agencies want — fewer requests for documents, less openness and transparency, fewer prying eyes. Those are the makings of a stress-free life for those who work for the taxpayers. They’re also the hallmarks of a government, disconnected from the people, that cannot be trusted.

It’s a good thing that Salem leaders rewrote their fee schedule. Let’s hope other communities do the same.

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Our view: Records shouldn’t come with a price tag | Editorials | gloucestertimes.com.