Online real estate company Zillow is after Henry County and the Henry County State's Attorney, alleging a violation of the Freedom of Information Act.
The complaint filed this week states that it sought 2015 tax rolls as of May 2016, and, for over a year, the county has not produced tax records. Instead, Henry County has a new ordinance setting a $2,500 fee for a tax bill data file.
Zillow maintains that even for voluminous requests from commercial firms, the Freedom of Information Act caps permissible charges at $100 for more than four megabytes of data.
According to the suit, in April of this year, State's Attorney Matt Schutte notified Zillow that he contacted the public access counselor in the attorney general's office for an advisory opinion on fees.
You have free articles remaining.
Days later, Zillow sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the state's attorney seeking his request to the public access counselor.
In the suit, the company is seeking the records themselves, a declaration that the county's ordinance setting fees is unenforceable and attorney's fees and costs.
Henry County is already providing Zillow with information about parcels' assessments, pictures and other data through the assessor's office. Supervisor of assessments Lindi Kernan said she believes the data goes to commercial users who sell it to make money.
"The frustrating part is all this information is gathered basically on the backs of taxpayers," she said. "We're constantly updating information and improving, and we have been complying with those things frustratedly."
The suit says that in the year Zillow sought tax roll records from Henry County, it was awarded a "Webby" in the real estate category, which is an honor given to services that represent the best of the internet. The firm claims to provide searchable information on real estate to help people choose properties, brokers and agents.