This case challenges the Town of Salem's policy of only producing police reports if the requester pays $15 per report. This is a clear violation of Chapter 91-A and Part I, Article 8 of the New Hampshire Constitution. Consistent with the constitutional principle that government be open and accessible, Chapter 91-A only authorizes public agencies to charge for the “actual cost of providing the copy,” whether it be the true cost of copying a specific document or a rate set by the municipality approximating the cost of copying/production. See RSA 91-A:4, IV. Here, Salem’s policy of charging a $15 fee per police report is untethered to the “actual cost” of providing the police report.
The ACLU-NH experienced this unlawful policy firsthand when it requested various police reports under Chapter 91-A. Salem then informed the ACLU-NH that, to obtain these public documents, it must pay this exorbitant fee that is unrelated to copying costs. Accordingly, the ACLU-NH requests in this case that the Court: (1) declare the Town of Salem’s fee schedule charging $15 per report unlawful under RSA 91-A:4, IV; (2) preliminarily and permanently enjoin the use of this fee schedule in relation to accessing public documents; and (3) order the Town of Salem to immediately produce responsive reports under Chapter 91-A to the ACLU-NH pursuant to its Chapter 91-A records request.
In early April 2018, the case resolved after the Town agreed to cease enforcement of its policy.