I've had the pleasure of reviewing some of the state's responses to various open records requests relating to the GOED/EB-5/Northern Beef Packers scandal. In meta-details, I notice that the Governor's Office of Economic Development has been quoting a specific hourly fee for fulfilling open records requests: $46.02.
$46.02, for finding, copying, and mailing documents.
Secretaries, administrative assistants, and other paper-workers, have you ever made $46.02 an hour?
Well, now that the feds and the press have put the spotlight on the EB-5 visa program, it appears state officials looking to pocket some extra cash have turned to open records requests as their current cash cow.
Keep in mind that all of the state employees finding these public documents for us are already drawing a paycheck for their public service. The additional hourly service charge is pure gravy, a fee for service that deliberately stifles citizens' efforts to access records to which they are entitled.
Among the many possible pieces of reform legislation that the GOED/EB-5/NBP scandal suggests, permit me to propose House Bill 1001 (that spot in the hopper isn't taken yet!):
Section 1: SDCL 1-27-1.2 shall be amended to read as follows:
For all public records requests, the state may charge no more than $0.05 for every page, paper or electronic, produced and transmitted to the requesting party. The total fee charged for fulfillment of any one public records request may not exceed $100.
Yes, it takes work for public officials to find and send public documents. But that's their job. To pay state workers a bonus larger than any office worker in the state receives for comparable work is a rip-off.