Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Do City Attorneys Understand the Open Records Law?

Time and again, I've discussed the contempt this administration has shown for citizen oversight - at least I thought it was contempt. Now, I'm leaning towards incompetence. Yesterday, the News-Sentinel posted a piece about public accountant Ron Reinking's request for information regarding Harrison Square financing. The amazing part isn't that the city hasn't responded in the timeframe required by law, it's that they don't even KNOW they are in violation:
A week ago today, Ronald Reinking, a Fort Wayne accountant, sent a letter on behalf of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation to the city’s Redevelopment Commission asking for more financial information about the $125 million-to-$160 million downtown revitalization project.

Reinking said he has yet to hear any response to his query.

Redevelopment Commission President Christopher Guerin said he received it Friday but understood from talking with city attorneys and Greg Leatherman, deputy director of community development, the request would need to be filed under the Freedom of Information Act because Reinking asks for information that will require new documents to be created at a considerable investment in time.
Freedom of Information Act? That's the federal law governing information requests but the state has it's own law - the Open Records Law. Granted many people, including myself, throw around the term FOIA in regards to information requests but city attorneys should know the difference.
Still, he said the commission would supply all the information under the right circumstances.

The right circumstance? State law allows for citizens to make their requests in person, over the phone, fax, email, letter, etc. So what exactly is wrong about this circumstance? Is it simply that the city doesn't want to comply? That would be in line with their modus operandi. Since city attorneys have failed Mr Guerin, let me remind him that he is ALREADY in violation of the law by not responding within 7 days. My suggestion would be for Mr Reinking to contact Indiana's Public Access Counselor to get a ruling on this matter...

UPDATE: Looks like the city is going to comply w/ Mr Reinking's request afterall. Quite a change since the story in yesterday's News Sentinel - did the mayor just return from the US Mayor's Conference and start cracking skulls? Whatever the reason, their response to the records request is a welcomed sign...


Leslie Graves said...

This reminds me of a somewhat similar situation in Great Falls, Montana.

Electric City is the blog writing about it--they're trying to get documents about the city's proposed investment in a coal-generating plant.

Jeff Pruitt said...

"Yet, my long journey through the Freedom of Information Act requests has led me to believe that many in city government wish we would just butt the hell out. The conspicuous lack of support I and others have received from the Commission and the Mayor in trying to obtain public information troubles me.

To me, it really comes down to leadership. The people we vote for need to do more than serve as an approving entity for unelected City employees."

Similar indeed. Thanks for the link Leslie...

LP Mike Sylvester said...

The answer to your question is simple.


Mike Sylvester