SACRAMENTO (CN) - Strangled by the parlous state of California's budget, counties are jacking up fees for copies of public records, but Sacramento County has gone way too far, charging $13 for page 1 and $3 for each additional page of electronic copies, which violates state law, a research group says in a class action.
California Public Records Research sued Sacramento County and its Clerk-Recorder Craig Kramer, in Superior Court.
The L.A.-based plaintiff says it "is engaged in the business, inter alia, of locating and retrieving public records," and that the fees charged in Sacramento violate the state's Public Records Act, which "mandates that fees for copies of public records shall be limited to the direct costs of duplication."
But Sacramento County charges $13 for the first page of a digitized document and $3 for each subsequent page, and $3 for the first page of a paper copy, and $1 for each subsequent page, and that's too much, according to the complaint.
Before 1993, the Legislature allowed charges of up to $1 for the first page of a public document and 50 cents for each subsequent page, according to the complaint. In 1993 it changed the law (Government Code § 27366) to allow counties to set the fees.
However, "In granting this authority to the counties, and to protect the public from the imposition of unlawful fees, the Legislature specifically mandated that, in exercising the discretion given to them to set copy fees, the fees set shall be limited to recoupment of the direct and indirect costs of producing copies," the complaint states.
The plaintiff says Sacramento County's "direct and indirect costs for producing copies of recorded documents did not and do not exceed 10 cents per page."
It seeks declaratory relief, writ of mandamus, an accounting, an injunction, refunds, costs, and "an incentive award."
It is represented by Donald Ricketts of Santa Clarita.