University of Missouri charges for documents, emails

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri system twice sought to charge a couple thousand dollars for a newspaper’s request for emails and the travel records of administrators.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that it sought the travel reports since 2009 for administrators of the four-campus University of Missouri system and for administrators at the Columbia campus. Earlier this year, the newspaper requested a month’s worth of emails from the university system’s interim president, Steve Owens.

University officials reported that providing the travel records would cost $2,281 and that producing the emails would cost $2,000.

University officials said part of the cost for the emails comes because an attorney would be needed to sift through the emails to determine which records were open under the state’s Sunshine Law. The school said that would cost $100 per hour.

Officials said the travel reports request would have produced 400 records, including some that are archived on microfilm. Kathy Miller, the custodian of records, said it would cost $5.54 per page to retrieve those records. Miller said it was not feasible to allow someone to simply view the records because a staff member would need to sit with a reporter to make sure employee identification numbers were out of view. Those numbers are personal identification numbers but are not Social Security numbers. They are allowed to be closed under Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

Jean Maneke, an open records expert and an attorney for the Missouri Press Association, said university officials should only have charged for locating the microfilm rolls and should have allowed them to be viewed. Maneke said the Sunshine Law also requires government bodies that opt to redact information in public records do so without charging those who are requesting the information.

Attorneys for the University of Missouri system disagree.

Ultimately, the newspaper pared down the request for travel records made in early June. It sought trip expense records for Owens, the curators who serve on the system’s governing board and Brady Deaton, who is the chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia. The records were provided earlier this month for $97.70.

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