In The News › Watchdog group files public records suit against Orleans assessors

Dec 14, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Watchdog group files public records suit against Orleans assessors

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
By Dominic Massa and Dennis Woltering

NEW ORLEANS – Calling thousands of dollars in fees for public records “unreasonable,” the Bureau of Governmental Research filed suit Tuesday against the Orleans Parish Board of Assessors.

The court fight stems from a request from the nonpartisan watchdog group, dating back to March, for the 2010 property tax roll from the assessors, according to a BGR news release.

BGR said the board of assessors responded to the request by setting high fees for the records, first asking for nearly $13,000 before reducing the fee to $4,525, which BGR called unreasonable for the amount of work.

BGR said it had requested the information in a plain-text format, which it said was “conducive to mapping and analysis.”

In response, assessor Erroll Williams disputed that, telling Eyewitness News that the issue is headed to court because BGR requested a searchable database. The board of assessors at first agreed to charge extra processing fees for the records, Williams said, but after BGR declined, Williams said the court offered the records at a lower price, which BGR also declined.

The Board of Assessors’ failure to turn over the records amounts to a violation of the Louisiana Public Records Act, according to BGR.

BGR has made every effort to avoid filing suit and to obtain public records at a fair price through discussion with the assessors,” said Sterling Scott Willis, BGR chairman. “However, it is clear that we have reached an impasse with the assessors. It is time to turn to the courts for enforcement of BGR’s right to obtain these records at a reasonable price.”

The Orleans Board of Assessors issued the following statement:

“The Bureau of Governmental Research was offered, as is Board policy, access to all records in pdf form for a flat programming fee of $500. The records cover more than 161,000 properties in Orleans Parish.

“Subsequent to this offer, BGR asked the Board to provide a customized, searchable database for ownership, property description and assessment information only. Such a cost to any requesting entity would be the same as quoted, which is the programming fee PLUS a $0.025 records fee. The BGR request would thus have exceeded $12,000.

“The Board reduced the fee for BGR, which is a non-profit entity, and requested a reasonable reimbursement of $4525.00. The Board respects the mission of the Bureau of Governmental Research. Further comment at this time should be addressed to the Board attorney Mr. Ken Pickering.”

Dec 14, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

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