he City of Parkville isn’t the only local tax supported entity getting a bit ridiculous in the handling of public records. It’s time to add Platte County R-3 School District to that list.
We mentioned a while back that we had put in a request for the separation agreement Platte County R-3 had reached with the mad tweeter, Dr. Chad Searcey? You’ll remember it as the deal where Searcey was paid $275,000 in taxpayer money just to go away after he engaged a school shooting survivor on Twitter by sending pictures of himself and his kids shooting guns.
R-3 claims the separation agreement is a personnel document. We find this curious because we have in the past had no trouble acquiring separation agreements that other school districts–most notably Park Hill–have reached with employees. Seems strange that R-3 is the only district we have encountered that refuses to release a copy of a separation agreement. R-3’s stance certainly sends the message that there is something in that separation agreement that the district does not want out for public consumption.
And I’ve mentioned there are attorneys–including the attorney for the Missouri Press Association–who argue that R-3’s stance on this is not in line with the Sunshine Law. We’ve been encouraged to file a complaint with the office of the Missouri Attorney General.
Now we learn The Landmark isn’t the only party trying to gather public information on the Searcey situation. An “anonymous” Sunshine request was recently made to R-3 seeking “any and all emails in the possession of the school district from June 12, 2019 to July 1, 2019 that contain the name of Chad Searcey or any variance of the name Chad Searcey.” The timeframe mentioned is when the Searcey tweeting controversy broke.
Platte County R-3’s response is interesting, and not in a good way.“Due to the nature of your request, time and expense is required to research and prepare the records. Your request will require the district to navigate through approximately 1,500 email messages in the district’s possession sent or received during the period specified in your request. Each of these messages must be reviewed by Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Mike Reik, for the identification and redaction of privileged and/or protected information that does not constitute an open record. The research and review time for your request is five hours of executive administrative time at $105.51 per hour, one hour of technology staff time at $48.10 per hour and five hours of clerical time at an hourly rate of $26.72 for a total of $709.25.”
And the district makes it clear it won’t begin searching until the $709.25 is received.
So what we have here is a tax supported entity in essence creating a pay wall, basically holding public records hostage by using the district’s highest paid employee to allegedly review emails and decide what is protected info and what isn’t. With technology at its disposal–you know, electronic search features and such–it seems highly unlikely that $700 is a reasonable fee. What it feels like is the $700 is a deterrent to furnishing public records. A virtual pay wall.
And the district doesn’t want to search any alternate spellings of the name Searcey. Let’s be honest, it is a name that is often misspelled into Searcy or something similar.
“Please be advised that a portion of your request, as written, could be far too expansive for the district to provide a response. Since it would be impossible to determine all the variations of the name of Chad Searcey, please be advised that we will use search criteria of “Searcey” when capturing email messages,” R-3 says in response to the request, though the district does add a sentence that says “if this is not acceptable, please provide further specification,” with a kicker “if additional time is required due to further specification, we will advise accordingly.”
The R-3 response letter, signed by Vicki Diggs, custodian of records, closes with:
“Once I am in receipt of your payment of $709.25 as outlined above, we will begin to compile the requested records for you. We anticipate it should take us no longer than 14 business days to comply once payment is received.”
A little breaking news on Wednesday morning: The petition drive to force a state audit of the City of Parkville is officially underway. The first person to sign the petition is a woman who was told by Mayor Nan Johnston during a public meeting last year: “I don’t have to let you speak at all.”
I can’t tell you how much I want Nan Johnston and her quick temper to run for county commission sometime in the future. Imagine the fun.
Hey, remember a couple of months ago when I quoted one of the oil market experts as saying we would be seeing gasoline at less than $2 a gallon by Thanksgiving? It could still happen, but it has a ways to go over the next four weeks to get there. Prices in Platte County this week are hovering around $2.26 per gallon. That’s about 15 cents per gallon less than a month ago, so things are trending in the right direction.
According to the website GasBuddy, the average price in Kansas City is $2.30 per gallon. Last year at this time it was $2.58.
They need you.
Have you ever given consideration to being a worker at the polls on Election Day? If you have a little time on your hands–or the opportunity to make time–give it some thought. The Platte County Board of Elections is in need of poll workers as everyone is gearing up for a high energy election year in 2020. “We’d like to get a little head start on recruiting election workers,” Chris Hershey, one of the directors at the board of elections told me last week. And with that in mind, an application has been placed on the board of elections home page at plattemovotes.org.
Pay for workers goes like this: election judges–$115; supervisory judges $140. There is also a training class for which workers are paid $25.
So what do the poll workers do? They must attend the poll worker training class. They must arrive at the polls by 5 a.m. to help set up for voting. They check in and issue ballots to voters. They close the polls at 7 p.m. (later if voters are in line at 7 p.m.). And they account for ballots and pack up supplies. For more information on how this works, call the Platte County Board of Elections office at 816.858.4400 or email email@example.com.
(Get Between the Lines at your convenience on Twitter @ivanfoley and search for Foley on Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)