The Contentious Administrative Court No. 1 of León has condemned the León City Council for wanting to collect one hundred euros from a journalist from ileon.com who wanted to access public information. The consistory asked the journalist 118.58 euros to photocopy the decrees of January 2017 despite the fact that the editor had expressly requested a digital copy, since according to the Leonese City Council all the decrees were on paper and none were in digital format.
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The judge orders the León City Council to pay costs – 500 euros, taking into account “the amount of the appeal and the nature and complexity” of the matter – for responding to the journalist “as if photocopies had been directly requested” when he could have scanned the documentation: there are 121 document scanning devices and “enough” support staff to do so.
The journalist requested a digital copy of each decree contained in the Decree Book from January 1, 2017 to January 31, 2017 in November 2018. The City Council favorably estimated the petition, but claimed that it had not digitized the January decrees of 2017, for which it required the payment of the photocopies of 363 decrees.
The journalist then went to the Transparency Commissioner of Castilla y León, a figure that falls on the also ‘defender’ of the autonomous people (Procurador del Común), considering the access granted to the documentation to be irregular, since it required payment to access the decrees of the mayoralty in times of the government of Antonio Silván (PP). In the midst of the pandemic, in April 2020 and almost a year and a half after claiming, the Transparency Commissioner estimated the journalist’s claim and urged the Leonese town hall to deliver the documentation as requested. The León City Council, dissatisfied with the resolution and already under the mayoralty of José Antonio Diez (PSOE), chose to take the decision of the Transparency Commissioner to court, which has now denied him reason.
In the ruling, to which this newspaper has had access, the judge does not believe that the consistory has justified “sufficiently” the impossibility of sending the information electronically. “It is not impossible to give paper documents electronic format”, highlights the judge responsible for the case.
In addition, the ruling emphasizes that the City Council “cannot claim to obtain a public price” for another case that is not provided for in the tax ordinance, as was the case of a request for transparency. The consistory demanded 118.58 euros: 67 copies for one side at € 0.20 / copy; 282 double-sided copies, at € 0.30 / copy. In total, he aspired to charge 98 euros without VAT, which added up to 118.58 euros for photocopies.
On the two substantive issues of the matter, the judge considers that “going from paper to electronic format is not reworking” and that in the case in question the City Council of León has tried to charge a public photocopy fee, which is not applicable to the case. since there are means for digitization, so there is no charge whatsoever: “The City Council can apply a fee as long as there is a tax ordinance that provides all the possibilities to demand payment, and this is not the case.”
Victor A. Bayón, lawyer at Cordal Estudio Jurídico who has defended the journalist’s behalf, values the sentence very positively and highlights “that this resolution represents a legal rape to the City Council of León. the way to charge abusive and undue rates “. “In this case, it is a fact that the City Council intended to charge a fee for scanning documents when not even that concept is provided for in its Municipal Ordinances,” he says to ask the council to “take note and modify this opaque situation.”