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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • County ponders how to deal with photographing of public records

  •    It's no question that under the Kansas Open Records Act, information from the registry of deeds is open to the public.

        In an effort to recoup office expenses, Ford County charges 50 cents per copy when curious residents come in looking for public records. However, more and more people are circumventing those costs and simply photographing the records.


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  •     It's no question that under the Kansas Open Records Act, information from the registry of deeds is open to the public.
        In an effort to recoup office expenses, Ford County charges 50 cents per copy when curious residents come in looking for public records. However, more and more people are circumventing those costs and simply photographing the records.
        Brenda Pogue, register of deeds for Ford County, said it wouldn't be a problem except more and more people are bringing their cameras in, plugging in extra batteries and spending the entire day taking photos.
        "I had a lawyer in there the other day," Pogue told the county commissioners Monday. "He saw a couple taking photos. As he was leaving, he turned to me and told me he was going to do that next time."
        Pogue didn't ask the commissioners to take any action, but she did ask them to see if there was some way the county could regulate the photographing of public records.
        County Clerk Vicki Wells was quick to jump in with a warmomg  against completely banning cameras.
        "I truly think banning cameras would be a bad thing," she said. "They are open records, and it's a digital world."
        However, some counties in southwest Kansas have flat-out banned the use of cameras when looking at open records.
        Rita Alsop, register of deeds for Finney County, told the Globe Thursday that Finney does not allow any cameras to be brought .
        "It's easy enough for people to copy something, and we have quite a few documents already scanned," she said. "So far, we haven't allowed photographs to be taken."
        Alsop said if someone were to bring in a camera and attempt to take photos, they would be asked to stop.
        Conversely, Seward County has already put in place a policy that charges a flat rate: $25 per day, per camera.
        Cynthia Sallaska, register of deeds for Seward County, said county officials wrote out the policy after a group of people came in and spent a day shooting photos of records. When putting the books up, Sallaska said workers discovered that because at least one group had laid the books extra flat, the binding had begun to fray.
        "Some have questioned us charging for taking photos," she said. "That $25 is to help maintain the books."
        Sallaska said she agreed with Wells' wariness of completely blocking cameras from being used. For Sallaska, cameras were just another form of copying. And, since they are open records, the county shouldn't block photography.
        "But I'm probably one of the more liberal ones, I'll tell you that," she said.
        The commissioners agreed to take an early look into how they could regulate the use of cameras on open records.
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    Reach Mark Vierthaler at (620) 408-9932 or e-mail him at mark.vierthaler@dodgeglobe.com.

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