Secretary of State Mark Martin's office set a rate of 25 cents a page for copying documents after the Arkansas Times was forced to make voluminous requests for information because office spokesmen wouldn't answer our questions. The state Freedom of Information Act doesn't allow state agencies to charge more than the cost of copying. We objected that the price was exorbitant. After first indicating that the cost was linked to the size of the request — the law doesn't allow charges for labor, either — the office fell back on the defense that copies cost 25 cents and all media were being charged the same rate.
This week, after many others complained about the fees, the office announced it had studied the issue further with its copy machine vendor and found the 25-cent rate had been in error. The cost should have been 11 cents, said Martin deputy Alice Stewart. She put the change down to a misunderstanding by the vendor that color, rather than black-and-white copies, was at issue. "It was an honest mistake," she said.