Almost unnoticed, Gardner updated their “open records” policy, which determines appointment of a local freedom of information officer, official custodians of the records and fees associated with copies requested by taxpayers.
According to the new policy, adopted Dec. 5, fees “shall not exceed the actual cost of furnishing copies, including the cost of staff time required to make the information available. In the case of fees for providing access to records maintained on computer facilities the fees shall include only copies of any computer services, including staff time required.”
Therein lies the rub: who determines staff’s rate of pay, and who monitors the amount of staff time devoted to making a copy?
Truthfully, we don’t have a problem with Gardner (or Edgerton) when asking for documents. They comply within the three days allowed by law, and the fees – if charged – are reasonable. Most transactions are handled electronically.
Unfortunately we’ve encountered instances as recently as 2013-14, when the (prior) USD 231 board used their KORA policy to stymie the free flow of information by imposing unreasonable fees, imposing fees unequally, limiting access to hard copy documents, requiring payment by dinosaur check and requiring requestors appear in person. We hope that policy will be updated.
The problem isn’t so much the KORA policies, but more how they are administered.
Of course, the argument could (and should) be made that employees are already paid a salary as custodians of the taxpayers’ records, and, in fact, that used to be the belief. It’s why there are government employees: to handle the taxpayers’ business.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, that idea changed, and now taxpayers are charged to view records they pay (with their tax dollars) to create and maintain.
Why do we pay twice? Good question.
However, as open records policies go, Gardner’s update isn’t awful. We suppose it’s a necessary evil.