R. Reese Fuller

FEMA's $210,000 photocopy fee

by R. Reese Fuller

FEMA says it will gladly hand over documents requested by The Advocate, but only after the Baton Rouge newspaper coughs up a $209,990 photocopying fee. The federal agency says it will charge 10 cents a page - after generously waiving the fee for the first 100 pages, but charging for the next 2,099,900 pages. FEMA says none of the requested documents are stored on computers or are available electronically.

The Advocate first requested the documents
from FEMA in September 2006, asking for "copies of contracts, billing invoices and payments along with documents regarding inspection and maintenance contracts FEMA awarded after hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck Louisiana." FEMA responded to the request in May 2007 with the astronomical fee, adding that the paper had 10 days to turn over a check for the documents or the FOIA request would be considered withdrawn.
The Advocate responded to FEMA in a June 14, 2007, letter asking the agency to explain its decision, including why the newspaper had a 10-day deadline to respond when FEMA had taken nine months to answer the newspaper’s request. ...

Nearly nine months later, FEMA responded in a March 4 letter saying it would waive the 10-day deadline. ...
The Advocate also contends that FEMA has never charged a cent to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel for information it provided to that paper, including 27 CDs and 9,000 pages of documents.