Reasonable charges for filling Sunshine Law requests are one thing. But entities should not be using requests for public information to 1. make money off of it; 2. charge a fee so high it discourages future records requests from the public. 3. quote a fee so high so high the requestor will drop the request.
Call it throwing shade on the Sunshine Law. It seems the City of Parkville seems determined to throw shade. See the front page for details.
It appears the city is trying to set up a $19,000 pay wall of sorts, which could be an indication there’s some fire in those five Sunshine Law requests the city has yet to fulfill for Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville. In particular, the request for call logs and call records of elected officials and staff seems to be sending some at City Hall into flip-out mode. This would seem to be a good time to recall that some city officials allegedly made phone calls to certain Parkville businesses telling them to remove Citizens for a Better Parkville signs from their businesses last fall.
“The city is required to maintain these records and make them available to the public. The costs of transparent government should not be this high. They are either totally incompetent and inefficient or they are intentionally trying to get me to stop making any new requests and discourage citizens from making public records requests in the future. Either is unacceptable,” Maki said this week.
“I’ve already paid them $5,300,” Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville told me this week. Now the city is indicating it will want $19,000 more, Maki says. “They think they have the right to bill me after the fact,” he said.
“They are enabled by law to charge me 10 cents per page,” Maki said. “I have received 8,020 unique records. Assuming each of them is three pages in length, which is generous, that translates to $2,406. I’ve already paid them more than twice that.”
Then Maki brings up another valid argument.
“They don’t have to charge at all if releasing the data is in the public interest. Transparency is absolutely in the public interest.”
Watching the video of last week’s Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting, Alderman Dave Rittman said he was “frustrated” that certain public records were being published or discussed in the media without the aldermen being given advanced notice.
“Why would they be frustrated by transparency unless they had something they want to remain hidden from the public?” asks Maki. “I’m just trying to get to the relevant facts of things.”
It seems possible this disagreement over transparency could eventually lead to some legal action filed by Maki and/or Citizens for a Better Parkville. Theoretically speaking, legal action could lead to every elected official and some staff members being deposed by Maki’s legal team. Those depositions would certainly have the potential to be interesting and newsworthy.
Anybody else watch the video of last week’s Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting and think the 10-minute portion where the Sunshine requests were discussed was staged, with pre-determined questions and answers likely rehearsed in advance by the mayor, city administrator and a couple of aldermen?
We’ve seen better acting in Saturday morning cartoons.
Speaking of interesting, in a bizarre timing of events the three-member board of the Central Platte Fire District is down to one living member. No quorum means the board can’t meet to approve the paying of bills, payroll, etc. so the district’s legal counsel has filed a motion for that action to be approved by the circuit court.And the circuit court will be officially appointing qualified applicants to fill the two spots created with the recent deaths of fire board members Paul Regan and Stanley George, who died within hours of one another on Jan. 31.
“What are the odds of that happening?” remaining board member Mike Ashcraft asked out loud when he stopped in The Landmark one day last week.
If you’re interested in getting an appointment to the board, be sure to read the front page article to learn the proper steps to follow to express your interest. There’s also a detailed legal notice on the topic published in this edition of The Landmark.
There was a huge turnout for the family visitation and funeral of Matthew Silber at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Edgerton on Saturday morning. Matthew was The Landmark’s editorial cartoonist who died unexpectedly on Feb. 3.
Matthew’s wife Dawn told me she could answer a question or two about Matthew that I posed in my column last week. One of those questions was why he chose The Landmark as the spot he wanted to submit cartoons. The answer was he knew the freedom to express himself and his opinions would be allowed here.
Dawn tells me Matthew said to her: “Ivan lets me get by with a lot.”
(Get by with a lot via email to Ivan Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find him on social media outlets on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube)