GRAMA states that a governmental entity may charge a reasonable fee to cover the actual cost of providing a record.
. . . . (1) A governmental entity may charge a reasonable fee to cover the governmental entity's actual cost of providing a record. This fee shall be approved by the governmental entity's executive officer. (2) (a) When a governmental entity compiles a record in a form other than that normally maintained by the governmental entity, the actual costs under this section may include the following:
- (i) the cost of staff time for compiling, formatting, manipulating, packaging, summarizing, or tailoring the record either into an organization or media to meet the person's request;
- (ii) the cost of staff time for search, retrieval, and other direct administrative costs for complying with a request; and
- (iii) in the case of fees for a record that is the result of computer output other than word processing, the actual incremental cost of providing the electronic services and products together with a reasonable portion of the costs associated with formatting or interfacing the information for particular users, and the administrative costs as set forth in Subsections (2)(a)(i) and (ii).
If the record is provided in a form other than that in which it is normally maintained, then the fee can include: (Subsection (2)(a))
Staff time must be based on the salary of the lowest paid employee with the necessary skill and training to fulfill the request, and there can be no charge for the first quarter hour of staff time. (Subsection (2)(b))
For state agencies, fees are established by the Legislature. Local governments should establish fees by ordinance or written formal policy. (Subsection (3)) It is a good idea to establish a fee schedule that includes copying costs. Fee schedules provide consistency and let requesters know what to expect. Additionally, it is reasonable, though not mandatory, that the governmental entity have the requester approve anticipated fees before beginning.
Before processing a request, a governmental entity may require payment of past fees or of future estimated fees if fees are expected to exceed $50 or if the requester has not paid for previous requests. Any excess must be refunded to the requester. (Subsection (8))
Fees cannot be charged for reviewing a record to determine whether it is subject to disclosure or for allowing a requester to inspect the record. (Subsection (5))
. . . .(5) A governmental entity may not charge a fee for:
- (a) reviewing a record to determine whether it is subject to disclosure, except as permitted by Subsection (2)(a)(ii); or
- (b) inspecting a record.
In some instances fees may be waived. GRAMA encourages waiving the fee when the request benefits the public rather than a specific individual. (Subsection (4))
A person who requests a record to “obtain information for a story or report for publication or broadcast to the general public” is presumed to be acting to benefit the public. (Subsection 63G-2-204(4))
GRAMA also encourages the waiver of fees if the requester is the individual who is the subject of the record—or the guardian or legal representative—and for impecunious individuals [ meaning impoverished] whose legal rights are directly implicated by the information in the requested records. (Subsection (4))
Because GRAMA provides for waivers, a governmental entity cannot simply state that it will never grant fee waivers. If a person is denied a fee waiver, that denial can be appealed in the same manner as a denial of public records access. (Subsection (6)) The governmental entity must provide a notice of this right in its response to the requester.