City’s public records form remains same

Published 9:22 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Access to public records in Selma remains the same as it was several months ago — highly priced and with the stipulation that the information won’t be used to create a scandal.

In March, Selma City Council president Corey Bowie said he would send the city’s public records law to review by committee. Since then, the committee has reviewed the law, but nothing has been changed.

“We talked about it but we didn’t come back with anything definitively,” Bowie said.

Near the bottom of the city of Selma’s public records form, the requester is asked to sign an agreement that the information will not be used to “to create a scandal; (for) improper use; useless purpose; and/or malicious purpose.”

According to 36-12-40 of the Code of Alabama, “every citizen has a right to inspect and take a copy of any public writing of this state, except as otherwise expressly provided by statute.” No part of that section details what a person can do with the information once it is gathered.

Despite that, Bowie said changing the wording is not likely at this point.

“We were talking about reducing the price,” Bowie said. “As far as the language, we were probably going to let the language remain. The only thing we were debating on was the amount of money it was going to cost to get it.”

The cost for the records is $1.25 per sheet for 20 or less pages or $1.75 per sheet for 20 or more copies. Dennis Bailey, general counsel of the Alabama Press Association, said in March that the price per copy was excessive, since a person is able to get a copy many other places substantially cheaper. Bailey also said he’d never seen language like the city of Selma’s used in a public records request form.

Bowie and Mayor George Evans said in March that the public records law was already in place when they got into office.

“At this point, I support the city council’s decision in terms of cost of copies and things like that,” Evans said. “Until they change that rule to make it less than that, I support what this decision was to make that a part of policy.”

Bowie said the public records law will be revisited.