Pottawatomie and Canadian counties' fees for digital copies of assessments databases violate Open Records Act

Chalk up two more victories for a California businessman in his legal battle with Oklahoma's county assessors over the price for electronic copies of their real property assessments.

In the past month, judges have told Pottawatomie and Canadian counties' assessors that they could charge
Roger W. Hurlbert no more than $50 for the electronic databases.

Since 2008, five judges have declared the fees charged by the respective assessors violated the Oklahoma Open Records Act because the charges were “not limited to recovering only the reasonable, direct costs of record copying and record search.”

Hurlbert, an FOI Oklahoma Inc. member, does business as Sage Information Services in California. Hurlbert is represented by Douglas A. Wilson, a board member of FOI Oklahoma Inc.

Under the state Open Records Act, public bodies “may charge a fee only for recovery of the reasonable, direct costs of record copying, or mechanical reproduction.” (
OKLA. STAT. tit. 51, § 24A.5(3))

The most recent rulings in Hurlbert's favor came on March 24 in Pottawatomie County (C-2009-01783) and on April 6 in Canadian County (CV-2009-300).

Hurlbert also has won in Muskogee, Osage and Wagoner counties. A case in Grady County is pending.

In all five victories, the judges have said Hurlbert is entitled to his reasonable attorney fees and costs.

For more background on the lawsuits and the relevant law,
read these postings.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Journalism
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.