CalAware's audits have found a surprising number of public agencies unlawfully charging more that the 10 cents per page maximum permitted by the Political Reform Act for copies of financial statements which that law requires key public officials and campaign commitees to file as public records. But one public agencyand maybe the first to do sois actually correcting that mistake by offering refunds to those subjected to this kind of overcharge.
As Kimberly Fu writes in the Vacaville Reporter,
Are you entitled to a refund?
Possibly, according to the Solano County Taxpayers Association, if you requested a copy of a campaign statement from the county's Registrar of Voters and were charged $1 for the first page.
The maximum cost for campaign documents is 10 cents per page, as per the Fair Political Reform Act of 1974, said SCTA President Earl Heal. For copying other documents, the California Public Records Act allows government agencies to only charge "fees covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable."
"We believe that excessively high cost for copies discourages requests for public records, contrary to the legislature's declaration that 'access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in the state,'" said Heal in a letter to The Reporter.
Apparently in December, an SCTA member researching Dixon's Measure D campaign sought a copy of the campaign's statement from the county registrar's office and was charged $1 for the first page and 10 cents for each page thereafter. The group later realized the member had been overcharged and sent an e-mail to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), which it said validated the group's standing. A refund from the registrar's office was subsequently issued.
Lindsay McWilliams, Solano's assistant registrar of voters, called the matter a bookkeeping error.
He acknowledged the overcharge to the SolanoCounty Grand Jury a few weeks ago, he said. He and his staff went back through their receipts and discovered that none listed the type of document clients had requested. It's a situation that has since been changed
"We're trying to do better now," he said.
McWilliams believes between one and three people may have been impacted, and urges anyone who believes they're affected to step forward.
"We'll try to make it right," he said.
Claimants should bring their receipt to the registrar's office, at 675 Texas St., Suite 2600 in Fairfield,
Or, call the office at 784-6675.