Maine Government Agency Tries To Charge Public Records Requester $750 For Opening A PDF

from the gov't-agencies-and-their-'get-rich-quick'-schemes dept

We've seen lots of ridiculous amounts tossed around by government agencies in response to public records requests. Most of the ridiculous amounts we've covered give the appearance that the agency making the demand feels requesters are also spending other people's money. Like a Texas agency demanding $1 million for prison sexual assault records or the FBI wanting $270,000 to hand over files on defense contractor Booz Allen.

Other demands are smaller, but no less of a deterrent to government transparency. In one infamous example, the Massachusetts State Police erected a $180 paywall around documents related to the agency's marijuana enforcement efforts. Once the agency had the money in hand, it turned around and asked the state supervisor of public records to declare the requested records exempt from release. That was back in July. The MSP still has yet to release the records the requester paid for.

Up in Maine, something just as devious is taking place. MuckRock member Adanya Lustig asked the Maine Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority (located in Brunswick, ME) for a copy of the proposal it sent to Amazon in hopes of talking it into opening a second headquarters there.

Lustig did receive a copy of the proposal… and a very dubious email/clickwrap "agreement" in response:

Good afternoon Adanya,

Per your FOAA request of November 3, 2017, I am submitting a digital copy of our proposal to Amazon. The proposal was prepared by our in-house staff, within our current marketing budget. There were no third-party entities involved in its preparation. We do not agree to waive any fees. By accepting and opening this document, you agree to reimburse the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority $750.00 for associated administrative and legal fees. Please remit check to:

Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority

15 Terminal Road, Suite 200
Brunswick, ME 04011

Sincerely,

Steve

Steven H. Levesque
Executive Director

Lustig won't be paying this fee. As it noted in the MuckRock post, Maine law prohibits the collection of more than $30 in public records fees without advance notification. There was no notification here -- only the idiotic assertion that opening a PDF would result in Lustig agreeing to pay $750 to the Brunswick agency. The agency has yet to respond to Lustig's refusal, which seems to suggest other people not named Steven Levesque realized it was a stupid, unenforceable, and possibly illegal demand.

If you want to know what a $750 PDF looks like, it's embedded below.


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  • icon
    kP (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 9:52am

    Maine - centrally located ?

    I give them moxie points for trying, but really? Maine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McGyver (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 10:03am

    Well, that was worth it... I wish I'd have realized beforehand I was going to be looking at a $750 document... I'd have opened up a nice fancy wine...
    What goes good with bullshit?
    Megh... I'm a beer guy anyway.
    Regardless this is how these weasels (sorry to the actual weasel animals for the insult) keep ordinary people from finding out what they are up to and interfering with their plans...
    Seems fairly unconstitutional... But then what's a constitution good for these days anyway?
    Just an old piece of paper with a lot of suggestions scribbled on it... Right?
    They'll probably lock that old nuisance up behind a paywall too before long... Wouldn't want ordinary folks knowing All those rights they lost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 10:22am

    If one were to be subjected to an IRS audit, can they charge the government a ridiculous amount for producing the requested paperwork? Or do they not want your paper and will simply charge you for looking it up? Do you have to pay them for auditing you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Machin Shin, 29 Nov 2017 @ 10:30am

      Re:

      Interesting though. Makes me think that maybe we should make it work something like that. Police show up with search warrant and you get to charge them for providing what they ask. Seems like a fair way to handle things. That way the innocent at least get compensated for the intrusion and would also make the police hesitate on doing pointless searches.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 10:48am

    Amazon's Revenge

    Amazon's 1-click patent expired on September, and now even your local government charges you a $750 1-click payment for a Freedom of Access Act request regarding Amazon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 11:06am

    Be reasonable, now. Those tax giveaways to Amazon won't pay for themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 12:37pm

    FOR ALL THE TECH!!

    For all the computers and digital storage..

    WHY is it that State/Federal agencies REFUSE to use them??
    For all the SUPPER computers the FBI/CIA have monitoring the internet... They could get a FOIA out in a year..Let alone ANY TIME SHORTER..
    Do we expect anything Better from OTHER agencies.

    ANd who is responsible for Checks and balance in the laws and regulations that EVEN the state didnt know that they COULD NOT over charge..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 1:24pm

    Boolean logic

    By accepting and opening this document, you agree to reimburse the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority $750.00 for associated administrative and legal fees

    I read this as "if (A and B) then do C".

    with A="accepting", B="opening this document" and C="reimburse".

    By only "opening" without "accepting" it, only one of both conditions is met so there is no need to "reimburse".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 2 Dec 2017 @ 4:50am

      Re: Boolean logic

      Unfortunately for that logic, I'm pretty sure that the act of receiving the E-mail (with the document attached) would constitute "accepting" the document.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 29 Nov 2017 @ 1:41pm

    Outrage!

    Charge $750 at the last instant to view a document? There should be a law against that!! Oh, right, there is.

    There should be an agency whose whole purpose is to uphold the laws!! ...crickets chirping... Anyone? Anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Nov 2017 @ 6:52pm

    By viewing this site, you consent to the use of cookies.

    By reading this comment, you own me 0.50c per view. Bitcoin accepted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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