Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 4, 2013 Sunshine Law Request for School Board Packets from August 2008 - March 2010

On Friday January 4, 2013, I made a Sunshine Law Request via email to the Fox C-6 school board secretary for copies of the school board meeting minutes with attachments (board packets) from August 2008 through March 2010.  I copied the email to our school board president Linda Nash, the school board vice-president Dan Smith as well as our former school board president Ruth Ann Newman and board director John Laughlin who was a former neighbor of mine.  I have been asking the school board to post these documents on the district website for well over a year and a half.  I never received a response from our school board regarding this issue.  However, I was told by our superintendent that Fox chooses to put its money in the classroom instead of paying to have a full time person to maintain our website like the other districts that do that posts these documents online.  You'll have to read my other post where I found out that Fox did have a full time person employed as a web designer and has been with the district for more than 7 years.

I wanted to share my me email request with the community in hopes that other taxpaying citizens will also make the same request to obtain these documents to find out where their taxpayer dollars are being spent.  And, if enough people start requesting this information, maybe the school will start posting it online like they do in other school districts for free.  I don't think the school district should be charging patrons to obtain these Public Records.  The school district didn't start charging me for these documents until after I emailed out the superintendent salary schedule to some of my friends right before the August Bond Issue Election.  Once word got back to our superintendent, I received a cease and desist letter and the district also felt the need to start charging me for these Public Records.

Originally, the district informed me that they only had board packets scanned back to April 2010 despite having PDF documents for board meeting minutes dating back to 2002.  So, I thought I would go ahead and request the documents back to August 2008 to match the board minutes that are currently posted on the district website.  During the writing of this post I noticed that there was a July 2008 school board meeting that year and so I will have to revise my request.  Fox no longer has July board meetings.  However, in August 2011 the board minutes originally stated that the board approved the June 2011 and July 2011 board meeting minutes despite not having a July meeting.  I emailed the board secretary and asked her to make the correction which she did.

The district is currently charging me for 10 minutes of work to search for and scan the documents into a PDF document at a rate of $33 per hour which equates to a salary of $68,640 per year.  That may seem a little high but it is the rate of our school board secretary who is also our superintendent's secretary.  When I questioned the rate, I was also told that she is the only one that handles the board documents and that's why the district charges that rate.  Missouri Sunshine Law states that the rate is not to exceed the average pay rate for all clerical staff of the district.

I have not had a single response from the district since I emailed this request yesterday morning.  However, I did receive a read receipt from both Linda Nash our school board president and Debby Davis the school board secretary.  The school district has 3 business days to respond to my request.  I am waiting to see if they are going to charge me again.

Here is a copy of the email I sent:

Mrs. Davis,

Per Missouri Sunshine Law, I am requesting an electronic copy of the August 2008 through March 2010 Fox C-6 School Board Meeting Minutes w/attachments documents be sent to me via email free of charge.  As my interest in these documents are not for commercial use, Missouri Sunshine Law Section 610.026 states, “Documents may be furnished without charge or at a reduced charge when the public governmental body determines that waiver or reduction of the fee is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the public governmental body and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requester”.

Whether or not the school board or school district officials decide to continue charging for this documentation sends a strong message to the community as to how transparent our school district is with its information.  Prior to my request in September 2012, I was not charged for these Public Records.

I will again ask the same question that I asked our school board in my previous email to which I never received an answer.

Why is the school board unwilling to publish the school board meeting minutes with the attachments on the district website as they do in other school districts?

School board meeting minutes ARE NOT COMPLETE without the associated board meeting documents that the board meeting minutes reference.

I again encourage the school board to publish the board meeting minutes with attachments on the school district website.  By making these PUBLIC RECORDS available to the community, you can begin rebuilding the trust of our community.  It will also provide the community with a better understanding as to how much money it takes to run a school district and how their taxpayer dollars are being spent by our school board.

I look forward to receiving an electronic copy of the August 2008 through March 2010 School Board Meeting Minutes w/attachments documents.

Thank you,

Rich Simpson