TEMPLE — Bell County officials placed a price tag of more than $50,000 to fulfill a public information request for the emails of Temple Mayor Pro Tem Judy Morales.
Lou Ann Anderson, an editor of Watchdogwire.com, requested all the emails Morales sent on her county computer between Feb. 1, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2013.
Anderson was told Friday she would have to pay $50,448.75 for the public documents, less than the figure she was quoted Thursday — $56,153.80 plus postage, Assistant County Attorney Darrell Guess stated in emails to Anderson.
Guess said the county can’t give Anderson a time frame for producing the requested emails “due to the technical difficulties.”
Jim Chandler, director of technology services, estimated the cost of processing the emails Anderson requested, Guess said.
“The cost is so high due to the fact each email must be reviewed and redacted as to any personal, confidential, HIPPA-protected and other excluded identifiers that we are required under the Public Information Act to protect of the individual clients. The manpower required is extensive,” Guess said.
Catherine Robb, an attorney with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said the cost was “a pretty hefty charge.”
“It seems pretty steep and not within most budgets,” she said. “It’s certainly not just pocket change considering what you get at the end of the day.”
The major change in the price was the charge for locating, compiling and reproducing the emails, Guess said. The charge in the initial estimate was $40,059 with about 2,670 hours needed for that part of the process.
“The excessive amount is clearly an impractical option,” Anderson said Tuesday, while admitting the amount of information she requested is extensive. “I don’t deny the scope of the task, but with large amounts of information, requestors are often offered options such as an on-site review prior to duplication and/or digital versions instead of hard copies. No such alternatives were presented.”
Morales reportedly began deleting emails and documents that may have linked her to alleged improper and possibly illegal campaign activities on a Temple HELP Center computer around Nov. 11.