NASHVILLE (AP) – The state Department of Children's Services will appeal a Nashville judge's ruling ordering the agency to release records at 50 cents per page.
A group of media organizations led by The Tennessean and including The Associated Press is suing the agency for the records of children DCS was supposed to be helping who later died or nearly died between 2009 and mid-2012.
DCS originally said it would cost the media more than $55,000 for about 200 records. That estimate included more than 7,000 miles of driving to hand-deliver documents from local offices and 600 hours of redacting by outside paralegals at a cost of $30 an hour.
The agency later revised the estimate to a little over $34,000, but the media organizations objected, asking Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Carol McCoy to order the records released at no cost.
McCoy ruled last month that DCS could charge for copying the records but not for redacting them. She also ordered the expedited release of 50 recent records.
In a Friday court filing, DCS said it will appeal.
The Tennessean reports the agency now says it wants to charge almost $9,000 for 42 of the 50 records. (DCS says it is unable to provide records for the other eight children.) That comes to more than $5 a page for 1,600 pages of records.
The newspaper originally requested the records in September and filed the suit in December after the agency gave out only bare-bones summaries of the cases. DCS officials later acknowledged they did not know how many children who were either in DCS custody or had been reported to the agency as possible abuse victims had died during the period of inquiry.
Under fire from lawmakers, DCS Commissioner Kate O'Day resigned in February and was replaced by Interim Commissioner Jim Henry. He has since reorganized the department, creating a new division of child safety and revising the process for reviewing child deaths.
DCS and media organizations return to court May 10.
Information from: The Tennessean, www.tennessean.com
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