Arizona school district sues citizens to prohibit records requests

The Congress Elementary School District in Arizona has sued four citizens to prohibit them from requesting any more records, according to an injunction filed Jan. 28.

According to a summary by the Goldwater Institute, which is representing the citizens, the school district has repeatedly violated the public records law and refused to provide basic information, such as budgets. The district states in its suit that the citizens have harassed the school, listing the records requested, including agendas and meeting minutes.

Sometimes active citizens get into arguments with officials and request a lot of records (custodians often call them “frequent fliers”), but the solution is not stripping their right to access meeting minutes. The injunction also asks the court to force the citizens to pay the school’s attorney fees. That’s just wrong.

From an access strategy perspective, these active folks can be a big help for tipping you off to records. Check out the agency’s FOI log to see who has requested records and what documents. You can get a sense for what is going on, find out about records you might not have known about, and also request the records yourself.

2 Responses

  1. That is not true. The school district actually did give record after record after record to those people and those people kept requesting more and more records. They wanted copies of copies and requested ridiculous information, ancient information. In fact, they requested hundreds of records the lawsuit states. It is plain and simple harassment coming from some pretty low down bitter women in the community. There has to be some line drawn. The communities taxpayers are paying for all of the time and money put into filling every request by these angry people who are not working and contributing anything of value to the community. All of that money should be going to the bettering the education of the community’s children, not to giving non-functional individuals an outlet for their hate. I totally support the school district. It is about time someone stood up for what is right and decent.

    • This comment raises a really good point, and it is one that requesters and FOI advocates need to take seriously. I agree that some frequent fliers can cross the line and harass agencies to the point of hurting taxpayers. As a result of similar situations in California, Washington state and elsewhere, proposed legislation would limit requests in some circumstances. And reading the injunction, I saw that the citizens indeed asked for a lot of records. My point is there has to be a better way to deal with this situation other than taking away their rights to access records. Perhaps even “low down bitter women” have a right to access records about their government. It’s a price we pay for having open government. But I understand the frustration of record custodians and citizens, and it’s a good tip for accessing records: Make sure not to appear the harasser and the jerk. We can all be reasonable. Thank you for the valuable input.

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