Update: The Duluth News Tribune posted a story Friday afternoon saying the request had been withdrawn from the Monday council agenda.

Original post: On Monday, the Duluth City Council will consider a proposal to charge $35 an hour for anyone who makes city employees work more than 15 minutes doing their statutory duty to provide public records. So reports the Duluth News Tribune's Peter Passi, who quotes the city attorney, Gunnar Johnson, justifying the fee:

"Data practices is an area where we're seeing more and more administrative time taken up," Johnson said. "This is something that's happening all across the state."

It's the latest example of a city crying out in pain from the supposed burden of being transparent. This claim has been repeated by local government lobbyists at the Legislature to help defeat a bill that would have stopped the widespread destruction of emails. It's also a claim that's pretty much devoid of data, beyond anecdotal complaints about a few individuals who make data requests as an effort to (gasp) stay informed about what their government is doing. In the News Tribune story, Johnson singles out requests from records maven Tony Webster, who has offered a written rebuttal and comments to the council.

Today I put in a data request to the city of Duluth to learn how many data requests that they receive. I'll let you know how they respond, and if it's going to cost me.

The state allows governments to charge retrieval costs for public records, but at the hourly rate for the lowest-paid employee able to do the work. Meanwhile, Minnesota law requires Duluth and every other city, county and state agency to provide public records at no charge to people willing to come to their offices and inspect them. The Minnesota Data Practices Office says people have the right to take pictures of those records as well, at no charge.

Above photo by Star Tribune staff photographer Brian Peterson

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