Subject: Charges for Producing Copies of Public Records
The Tennessee public Records Act (T.C.A. § 10-7-503 et seq.) (TPRA) grants Tennessee citizens the right to inspect public records. The law allows records custodians to charge a fee to supply copies of public records pursuant to properly adopted policies. Under T.C.A. § 8-4-601 et seq., the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 created the Office of Open Records Counsel (OORC). The law directs the OORC to develop a schedule of reasonable charges which may be used by a records custodian as a guideline to charge a citizen requesting copies of public records. While these guidelines are not mandatory, they do create a safe harbor for a records custodian who adheres to the policies and guidelines established by the OORC. The Board of Regents adopts this policy with the intent of incorporating the OORC guidelines as they may be from time to time amended.
“Labor” means the time reasonably necessary to produce the requested records and includes the time spent locating, retrieving, reviewing, redacting, and reproducing the records.
“Labor threshold” means the labor of the employee(s) reasonably necessary to produce requested records for the first hour incurred by the institution in producing the records.
“Production costs” means all reasonable costs the institution incurred to produce the public records requested by the requesting party. Production costs include copying costs, labor costs, and delivery costs, as described in this policy.
“Public record” means any record of the institution that is required to be open to inspection under the provisions of Tennessee and United States laws.
“Public Records Designee” or “PRD” means the person at each campus, institute, or other unit who receives and coordinates public records requests and maintains documentation of public records requests, responses, and charges.
“Requesting party” means the person who requests to inspect or copy public records. To have access to public records, a requesting party must be a citizen of the State of Tennessee.
III. COPYING COSTS
Each institution will establish the charge for making copies of public records by photographic or other means of duplication at the rate established by the Office of Records Counsel as they may be from time to time amended. (See http://comptroller.state.tn.us/openrecords) The schedule sets a per page fee for copying that does not include labor charges as described below.
A. If the requested records exist electronically, but not in the format requested or a new or modified computer program or application is necessary to put the records in a readable and reproducible format or it is necessary to access backup files, the PRD shall charge the requesting party the actual costs incurred in producing the records in the format requested or in creating or modifying a computer program or application necessary to put the records in a readable and reproducible format or in accessing backup files.
B. Electronic records will be produced only in a read-only format.
IV. LABOR COSTS
The PRD shall charge the requesting party the hourly wage of the employee(s) reasonably necessary to produce copies of the requested records above the labor threshold defined in Section II above. The "hourly wage" is based upon the employee(s) base salary and does not include benefits. In calculating the labor costs to be charged to the requesting party, the PRD shall:
- First, determine the number of hours each employee spent producing the requested public records.
- Second, subtract the one (1) hour threshold from the number of hours the highest paid employee spent producing the request.
- Third, multiply the total number of hours to be charged for the labor of each employee by that employee's hourly wage; and
- Fourth, add together the totals for all the employees involved in the request to determine the total amount of the labor costs to be charged to the requesting party.
V. DELIVERY COSTS
The PRD shall charge the requesting party for the costs incurred by the PRD in delivering the records to the requesting party, in addition to any other charge permitted by these rules.
- Delivery of copies of records to a requestor is anticipated to be by hand delivery.
- In the discretion of the PRD, copies of public records may be delivered through other means, including electronically or by U.S. Postal Service.
If the requesting party requests copies of public records, the following provisions concerning payment of production costs shall apply:
- The PRD shall provide the requesting party an estimate of the production costs before initiating the production of copies of the requested public records.
- The PRD may require payment in full of all production costs before copies of public records are delivered or otherwise made available to the requesting party.
- Production costs must be paid by cash or check. Cash payments must be for the exact amount of the publication costs.
- The PRD will provide a receipt to the requesting party upon receipt of payment of the productions costs.
VII. WAIVER OF PRODUCTION COSTS
The PRD is authorized in its discretion to waive payment for providing copies of public records on a case to case basis.
VIII. REQUESTS FOR COPIES FOLLOWING INSPECTION
The PRD shall not assess a charge to inspect public records, unless otherwise required by law. However, if the requesting party, after requesting to inspect public records, requests copies of public records, the PRD shall charge the requesting party for all production costs.
Source: TBR Meeting, December 4, 2008