The Arizona Department of Public Safety is reconsidering fees it charges for public records after The Arizona Republic contested a bill of nearly $800 for copies of nine accident reports and photos.
The move could reduce fees citizens pay for routine records such as collision reports and traffic tickets.
“This is transparent and accountable government in action,” DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead said in a news release. “When questions were raised regarding the fees we charge for public records, I directed staff to research the issue."
A nearly monthlong series of emails and meetings between Republic reporters and DPS personnel prompted the review, said Capt. Damon Cecil, DPS director of public affairs.
"Your discussion with the director — when he said he was going to look into it, he wasn't joking. He doesn't say that stuff lightly," Cecil told a reporter Friday.
A $795 bill
DPS initially presented The Republic with a $795 invoice for the reports. The fees included a $25 charge for a CD with copies of the nine reports, and $35 each for 22 CDs with photos of the collisions.
The Republic initially declined to pay the fees, noting that new blank CDs can be purchased at local office supply stores for about 21 cents each in packages of 100.
Reporters offered to provide the law-enforcement agency new blank CDs or a new thumb drive onto which it could digitally transfer the records. Cecil declined because of concerns that non-DPS discs or thumb drives could corrupt DPS computers.
The Republic purchased the $25 CD with copies of the nine accident reports Monday. Meanwhile, Cecil told reporters that the agency was seeking legal advice from the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
On Thursday, the same day DPS issued the announcement about reviewing its public records fees, Cecil notified The Republic that the department would provide the remaining 22 CDs at no charge because "we do not want to cause any further delays in the story you were working on."