Advocating for Fair & Consistent Public Records Access
(updated March 5, 2015)
In light of the many reports of litigation threats against decision makers, and several undisclosed communications by Driggs city officials, on January 16, 2015 we filed a public records request for two months of correspondence between Driggs city officials and the Huntsman development team. Unfortunately, the city’s processing of this request has been in stark contradiction to transparent access, despite our best efforts specifically communicate to the city how to comply with the basic core requirements of the Idaho Public Records Act.
To date, these three issues still persist:
- Our records request has not been timely fulfilled. It took several weeks right up until just 3 hours before the final February 3rd Huntsman Springs Resort hearing to receive our records, and some records have still have not been disclosed at all. All our appeals have been denied.
- No independent oversight. Driggs Mayor Johnson continues to exclusively process and adjudicate our records request himself, despite being the subject of our records request. In order to ensure independent oversight as required by the Records Act, we have repeatedly asked that our request be processed by a disinterested city employee (such as the city clerk). The city has no formal ordinances, policies, or rules in place for processing public records, invoicing, or filing appeals. Instead, the Mayor has personally adjudicated all of this himself on an ad hoc basis, including personally denying all our appeals.
- We still have not received transparent invoicing. We were charged $538 including ten cents per page for 96 pages of black and white copies of g-mail messages. Although g-mail is easily searchable, Mayor Johnson maintains it took 19 hours of labor to compile them at the rate of $31 per hour, and has refused our appeal for more detailed invoicing. The Records Act requires the City to provide clear hourly invoicing and only charge the rate of the lowest paid employee qualified to process the request.
Why does this matter?
It’s so darn easy to remedy some of these issues, and in our appeals to the city we have tried to outline simple steps which would provide us with the most basic requirements of the Records Act: transparent invoicing and independent oversight. But frustratingly, all our appeals have been denied, and the city has not made any effort to address these basic errors and oversights. Thus, the only next step for us is to appeal in District Court, which we are in the process of doing right now because we strongly believe that everyone should have open, equal, and affordable access to public records that have been independently vetted.
This is not a step that we relish or take lightly, but frankly, it is the only next step for any form of appeal under the Idaho Public Records Act. All of us deserve fair and consistent access to public records.
- February 3, 2015 Request for Recusal of Mayor Johnson and Continuation of Hearing until public records are produced. We submitted this request for a continuance 4 hours before the Feb 3rd final Huntsman Springs hearing because our January 16th public records request remaining entirely unfulfilled at that time.
- February 10, 2015 Appeal of Records Request. VARD submitted this request asking for invoices, a privilege log of the documents being withheld by the city, appeal of improper processing of public record’s request, and appeal of improper denial of public records.
- February 20, 2015 Response. This was the response from City of Driggs denying our appeals.