Sep 23, 2022 - News

FOIA Friday: Getting priced out of public records

Illustration of an unlocked padlock made out of a manila folder.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Our quest for public records shedding light on Olympia Development's mysterious parking tickets hit another roadblock.

  • Faced with a $4,856 bill, we're forced to close this request for now.

Why it matters: Obtaining public records can be costly — as we've documented in our weekly spotlight.

  • News organizations and citizens have limited resources and sometimes cannot afford records without knowing if the disclosed information is worth it.

What happened: After Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer wrote about Olympia's tickets, we filed a Freedom of Information Act request on May 13 for six weeks' worth of emails including keywords such as "parking" and "Olympia" for four city officials.

  • The city said it would take a whopping $17,664 and two years to get the records.

The latest: We narrowed the request by trimming the list of officials whose emails we wanted to three and asking for fewer keyword searches.

  • The fee dropped by nearly $13,000 and our estimated wait-time was reduced to 10 months.

The bottom line: But without knowing whether the emails would help answer questions about Olympia's authority to write the tickets, we can't justify paying so much while waiting nearly a year.

  • We may file another FOIA request on this topic in the future.

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