Posted on May 6, 2012 by Charles N. Davis
A frequent tactic in the FOI game is the eye-popping fee for redaction and records preparation. I’d like to say this is an unusual price tag, but I’ve run across several similar stories in the past few months:
A group of taxpayers in the Rockwood School District has been told it must pay $18,005 for a public records request, prompting the group to ask the state auditor’s office to review the matter as part of an upcoming audit of the district.
On April 16, the group, which goes by the name Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions, requested copies of 3½ months of emails sent to and from the district email accounts of School Board members, the board secretary, the superintendent and the president of the teachers union.
After informing the group that the request would involve thousands of pages of records, district spokeswoman Kim Cranston asked the group to be more specific.
The taxpayer group responded by saying it was seeking assurance that district email accounts weren’t used to solicit support for Prop R — a $43.2 million bond issue that failed at the polls April 3 — or to endorse any of the School Board candidates. Such activity could run afoul of election law.
Filed under: 5. Request strategies, 6. Overcoming denials, 7. Electronic records | Tagged: e-mail, fees, Missouri, St. Louis | 1 Comment »
Posted on April 3, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
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The New Yorker weighs in with a laudatory post about the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s response to the FOI request. As I wrote in an earlier post, I think the response created some novel arguments not reflected by the state’s existing exemptions. The question now is whether the requester is satisfied with the response and the documents produced by it.
Filed under: 2. Doc state of mind, 3. Access law, 5. Request strategies, 6. Overcoming denials | Tagged: University of Wisconsin–Madison, William Cronon | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 1, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
Well, the UNiversity of Madison-Wisconsin complied with the request for a noted history professor’s e-mails — sort of, kind of.
Here is the Chancellor’s message to the campus:
And here is the official letter from counsel for the University of Wisconsin.
The money graf:
You should further note that the e-mails that we have reviewed contain absolutely no evidence of political motivation, contact from individuals outside normal academic channels or inappropriate conduct on the part of Professor Cronon. The university finds his conduct, as evidenced in the e-mails, beyond reproach in every respect. He has used his university e-mail account appropriately and legitimately. He has not used his university e-mail account for any inappropriate political conduct. In fact, none of the e-mails contained any reference whatsoever to any of the specific political figures that you identified (except Governor Scott Walker), nor do they in any way reference the proposed recall efforts.
But I also was quite interested in the following reason for partial denial of the request:
5. Intellectual communications among scholars. Faculty members like Professor Cronon often use e-mail to develop and share their thoughts with one another. The confidentiality of such discussions is vital to scholarship and to the mission of this university. Faculty members must be afforded privacy in these exchanges in order to pursue knowledge and develop lines of argument without fear of reprisal for controversial findings and without the premature disclosure of those ideas. The consequence for our state of making such communications public will be the loss of the most talented and creative faculty who will choose to leave for universities that can guarantee them the privacy and confidentiality that is necessary in academia. For these reasons, we have concluded that the public interest in intellectual communications among scholars as reflected in Professor Cronon’s e-mails is outweighed by other public interests favoring protection of such communications.
I just took a quick look at Wisconsin’s exemptions, and I am not seeing this one. This is one of those Show-Me moments that Dave and I always talk about: “Can you show me where in Wisconsin law it says this stuff is exempt?”
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, 2. Doc state of mind, 5. Request strategies, 7. Electronic records | Tagged: Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison, William Cronon, Wisconsin | 2 Comments »
Posted on March 26, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
Nothing here to advance the story, but love the quote from Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council:
“I’m pleased to see the Republicans making use of the open records law because they are as entitled to it as everyone else in the state,” said Bill Lueders, the president of theWisconsin Freedom of Information Council, a nonprofit group that supports open records and open meeting laws.
Filed under: 3. Access law, 4. Finding records, 5. Request strategies, 7. Electronic records | Tagged: email, university records, Wisconsin | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 24, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
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Sunshine Review leads these really great weekly #FOIAchat discussions on Twitter on freedom of information act issues. Our turnout includes open government advocates, public officials, and professional journalists.
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Ryan Gabrielson from California Watch will answer questions and speak on the topic “From Tip to Story: How to Write an Investigative Piece” this Friday at 1 CT. Gabrielson has extensive experience obtaining documents from local governments using FOIA.
Gabrielson was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2009 for his reporting on how a popular sheriff’s focus on immigration enforcement endangered investigation of violent crime and other aspects of public safety in Mesa, Arizona.
Filed under: 1. Records that matter, 2. Doc state of mind, 3. Access law, 5. Request strategies | Tagged: Freedom of Information Act, Ryan Gabrielson, Sunshine Review | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 25, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
They dropped it, citing the uproar….I am glad. These non-journalistic flights of fancy promise more blowback to FOI than scrutiny of government.
Filed under: 3. Access law, 5. Request strategies | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 25, 2011 by Charles N. Davis
The Anniston City Council today plans to discuss taking legal action to collect $1,855.40 from The Anniston Star for open records the newspaper requested, but never received in the form requested.
“If the Council is playing games, we’ll take their pointed jab in good spirit,” Star publisher Brandt Ayers said. “However, on substance, there is no debt; nothing in the law or common sense requires us to pay for something that we specifically and repeatedly said we did not want.”
The Star made a written request on Jan. 14, 2010, for e-mails sent by Councilmen Ben Little, Herbert Palmore, John Spain and David Dawson as well as Mayor Gene Robinson over the last three months of 2009. The request specified the documents be sent electronically to Gmail.com accounts set up to receive them.
“We do NOT request printouts of the material,” the request specified.
In February 2010, city manager Don Hoyt delivered to Star editor Bob Davis, who made the request, more than 800 pages of printed and redacted e-mails along with a bill for $1,855.40. Broken down, that bill includes a 50-cent-per-copy fee for 344 pages from an undated earlier invoice, a fee for $10 an hour plus 5 cents per copy for 818 pages of e-mails, $768 for the Hoyt’s time, $412 for legal fees, and $262.50 for services of the city’s Internet provider.
Read more:Anniston Star – Anniston council would charge newspaper 1 855 for public records
Filed under: 5. Request strategies, 7. Electronic records | Tagged: Alabama, Anniston Star | Leave a comment »