A&A: Fee for email copies same as paper copies?

Q: I filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The investigation is now complete, and I have requested a copy of the complete file.  The DFEH district administrator responded stating cost of 10 cents per page plus postage needs to be paid before I can receive file copy.  I requested to have it sent by email instead to avoid  fee, but DFEH insist charging cost per page even if sent by email.  I supplied a lot of copies to DFEH during the complaint process pointed out that in order to avoid duplication of copies, I need an index. They responded that they did not have an index.

Is there a way to request a fee waiver to get copy of file? What can I do since I’m dissatisfied  with the Investigator that my complaint was not fully investigated and feel I’ve been brushed off to close the file early without doing a full investigation and District Admin backing up Investigator assigned to case?

A: As for your first question, California’s Public Records Act provides that state and local agencies must provide copies of public records that are not exempt from disclosure “upon payment of fees covering direct costs of duplication, or a statutory fee if applicable.” Govt. Code § 6253(b). A charge of 10 cents per page is fairly standard. You could always request that the agency waive the duplication fee, but there is no requirement that the agency do so.

Instead, your best bet might be to go to the office of the agency to inspect the records in person rather than requesting copies of the records. Under the PRA, agencies can charge for copies but cannot charge members of the public for simply inspecting the records at the agency’s office. See Govt. Code § 6253(a) (“Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided.”).


  • I have requested electronic documents from City Hall under a CPRA request. I would like to receive them in their original format, electronic, as requested.

    For example,

    – PDF: The document already exists as a PDF file
    – Spreadsheet: I would like a copy of the document in its original spreadsheet form
    – Email: I am particularly interested in the parts of the document that are generally not seen by email clients, but always present, such as the series of headers that indicate the routing from the source to the destination (including but not limited to the to: and from: headers)

    among other common formats and related issues.

    In each case, I asked for the document specifically enough to identify the electronic version.

    Yet in each case, the Clerk insists on providing me with a paper version of the document, which is not the document I asked for. In particular, it has been transformed to remove the codings, formatting, etc. that I maintain is part and parcel of the document I asked for.

    In effect, I suppose this might be justified (but never has been) as a sort of redaction. Regardless of the justification, is it legal for City Hall to transform the format of the original document, perhaps for their convenience but certainly not for mine, before delivering the document?

    If not, what is my remedy for persuading them to simply provide the original format as requested rather than create unnecessary work for everyone and at the same time delivering incomplete documents?

    • Your questions on first amendment and government access issues can be submitted to the Legal Hotline. The questions are forwarded to FAC’s first amendment lawyers and their responses are forwarded directly to you via email.

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