Shasta News Outlets, FAC, and ACLU Demand Shasta County Repeal Unlawful Public Records Act Fee Ordinance

September 20, 2023


SAN RAFAEL — The First Amendment Coalition and ACLU of Northern California, along with news outlets Shasta Scout and the Record Searchlight, today called on Shasta County to repeal an ordinance that imposes unlawful fees for public records that can run into the thousands of dollars and threaten the public’s fundamental right to open and accountable government.

In a letter sent today, lawyers for FAC and the ACLU told members of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors that their organizations, joined by the Record Searchlight and Shasta Scout, plan to file a lawsuit if the county does not repeal the ordinance by October 18.

Passed in January 2021, Ordinance No. 755 directs the county to charge $25 per hour for staff time spent “locating, retrieving, reviewing, preparing, copying, and furnishing” records requested under the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”), a pillar of transparency and accountability in state and local government.

The CPRA allows agencies to charge only for the direct costs of copying records. No law allows the county to charge entirely different fees for finding, reviewing, or redacting public records. After FAC and the ACLU threatened litigation, Mendocino County recently repealed a similar ordinance.

“​​Time is of the essence because every day that the Ordinance remains in effect, the public is subject to a financial barrier depriving them of their transparency rights under the CPRA and California Constitution,” the letter says. In addition to seeking repeal of the ordinance, the letter demands that the county refund fees assessed under the ordinance and withdraw any pending charges for such fees.