On Monday, Crowley Political Report told readers how the state of Alaska charged $725.97 for 24,000 pages of former Gov. Sarah Palin's email record while Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration charged $784.84 for just 1,100 email records belonging to communications director Brian Burgess.
Our report has spawned a gread deal of reaction including this story today by New York Times Regional reporter Lloyd Dunkelberger. Crowley Political Report is quoted at length in the story questioning the administration's public records policy.
Since our report, Burgess has sent numerous emails telling Crowley Political Report that the administration is complying with the law.
Here's a sense of the administration's position as quoted in Dunkelberger's story:
Scott's aides said the more stringent public records policies are a response to the flood of public records requests that have hit the governor's office in its first six months.
And they said most requests are being handled in a timely manner.
"Since January, we've fulfilled 669 public record requests with an additional 74 in the process of being completed," said Scott spokeswoman Amy Graham. "This is more than any other administration after just six months in office, proving that we not only comply with public record laws, we exceed them."
Graham called the comparison of Palin's emails to those from Brian Burgess, Scott's communications director, unfair, because Palin's records were more accessible since they were segregated in a special email account.
In contrast, many of Burgess' government-related emails end up in his long-established private email account and the cost comes from having to sort out the public records from his personal messages, Graham said.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, said the use of private email accounts to handle government business is one of the problems with Scott's fee policy.
If someone requests copies of email from one of Scott's aides, the aide can bill the requestor for the time it takes to search the private accounts for the public emails.
She cited a March 22 request for a week of Burgess emails that was acknowledged on April 10. The estimate for the search fee was not provided until June 7.
She paid the $244.73 fee on June 14, but still had not received the records as of earlier this week.
As a test of Scott's policy, Petersen said she submitted similar public records requests to Florida's other state government executives — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
In a matter of days, they complied with the release of two weeks of emails, with Putnam and Bondi not requesting any charges and Atwater asking for a $10.50 fee, reflecting a search rate in the range of $14 per hour.
Petersen said Scott's policies seem to be aimed at "thwarting the public's right of access."