FAC and ACLU of Northern California Welcome Mendocino County’s Repeal of Public Records Fee Ordinance

May 9, 2023

Contact: fac@firstamendmentcoalition.org

Today the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to repeal Ordinance No. 4507, which authorized the county to charge as much as $150/hour for staff time to locate, review, or redact documents people asked for under the California Public Records Act. The law, passed last July, received widespread condemnation from the public, journalists, and open government advocates. One local media organization, the Mendocino Voice, has been assessed fees in excess of $76,000 since the law was passed.

Mendocino was not the only county in California with an ordinance allowing illegal fees to be charged for public information. According to research by the  First Amendment Coalition and the ACLU of Northern California, seven other counties — Los Angeles, Shasta, Siskiyou, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Santa Cruz, and Ventura — have passed similar laws. 

The following can be attributed to David Loy, Legal Director, First Amendment Coalition:

“We’re glad the board of supervisors repealed this law. Public records belong to everyone no matter how wealthy. Democracy depends on freedom of information, but information is not public when only the rich can afford it. We hope other counties with similar laws will listen to the public and abolish these undemocratic laws.”

The following can be attributed to Chessie Thacher, Senior Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California: 

“It’s good to see that Mendocino finally did the right thing after starting off in the wrong direction. This ordinance should never have been enacted, and the ACLU and FAC–joined by others in the community–were poised to challenge it. The government must provide public information to everyone with as few barriers as possible. When the government doesn’t do that, we have problems with access and equity.” 

See FAC and the ACLU of Northern California’s letter to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors urging them to repeal the law.