arkville city officials again are requesting payment in lieu of releasing communications pertaining to a controversial large-sized development in the historic city.
In a letter dated May 30, Damien Fosmoe submitted a Sunshine request for correspondence between city staff, elected officials, the project’s developer and his attorney.
City officials will honor Fosmoe’s request on the condition he pay $60 to cover copy costs and a flash drive on which a portion of the documents will be copied. As another part of the request, city officials are seeking a larger amount before releasing other documents to Fosmoe that were originally requested by Jason Maki and are being held at City Hall in lieu of additional payment.
Fosmoe said he probably will pay the $60, which he believes will produce documents already supplied to Jason Maki of Citizens for a Better Parkville.
“I think it’s a bit excessive,” he said, adding that a USB drive can be purchased for about $5. “But I don’t think it’s worth fighting about,” he said during a telephone interview.
Fosmoe, a Parkville resident since 2014, said he believes the payment requests could be the officials’ way of dodging the release of communications about the development and that causes him pause.
“I’m frustrated because of a lack of transparency,” he said, referring to the state law designed to force government to manage procedures in the public eye.
In a letter dated June 4, City Clerk Melissa McChesney, the city’s custodian of records, wrote that Fosmoe’s request of records, based on earlier Sunshine requests by Jason Maki, will first need additional payment, mirroring the response to Maki, head of Citizens for a Better Parkville. The group has been critical of the city’s handling of the development.
“Costs associated with staff time to copy the records and to provide the flash drive device must be paid prior to the city beginning work on production of the documents,” the letter states. “These costs total $45 which is based on two hours of staff time to copy the documents onto the flash drive and $15 for the cost of the flash drive device. The flash drive will be available for you to pick up within three business days after receipt of your payment.”
The letter also requests an additional payment for already-researched information based on an earlier request by Maki, for which he said he has paid more than $6,500. Maki received some documents for his payment, but the city is holding additional documents in lieu of additional payment in the amount of $2,900, which would bring the grand total to $9,400 he said.
Maki, and his attorneys of the Graves Garrett Law Firm have said the fees are excessive. The Sunshine Law specifies that cities may charge nominal fees for administrative support personnel to make copies. But, city officials said the payment is justified considering the mass volume of information requested.
In addition, Maki and his attorneys have said they’ve learned through fulfilled Sunshine requests, that City Administrator Joe Parente, the city’s top paid staff, has personally sifted through dozens of documents and believe the city is charging for his time.
Maki responded to the charges required for the new requests.
“This is all in the public interest, so they shouldn’t be charging at all,” he said. “I’m not trying to stiff the city,” he said of his unwillingness to fulfill additional payments. “We’re in a stalemate,” he said.
Fosmoe also has been concerned with other aspects of the city’s handling of the development. He said he earlier attended several Parkville Board of Aldermen public hearings in which he categorized Mayor Nan Johnston as being “pretty abrupt with a discontented public about the process.”
Many residents attended earlier public hearings about the proposed plan which occurred during planning and zoning and board of aldermen meetings.