Information Hide and Seek

Dear Readers,

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from the actions of your administration.

Below you will see an exchange of emails between Arthur Green and the Superintendent’s Executive Assistant. It concerns the public release of a form disclosing staffing numbers that must be filed with the Department of Education in mid-October every year.

Mr. Green also requested the public release of the district’s end-of-year financial filings to the Department of Education. This was due to the DOE on September 1 but was not filed until mid-October. The district has replied that the numbers are not yet finalized and is not providing the document that was filed. Let’s be clear.  The document as it was filed is public and should be provided immediately on demand as required by the Right to Know law. Last year the form was posted to the district website for all to see.

From: Arthur Green <azgreen@comcast.net>
Date: October 18, 2015 at 9:47:38 PM EDT
To: Earl Metzler <Earl.Metzler@timberlane.net>, <trsb@timberlane.net>, <budcom2@timberlane.net>
Subject: Staffing Report A12B

Dr. Metzler

I have not seen the A12B Staffing Report for Timberlane as of October 2015 posted on the district web site.  Last year this report was posted immediately upon filing in mid-October, and I would hope that the intention is to post it in the normal course of business.  If this is not the case, please consider this a request under RSA 91-A for the report.

I will happily rescind this request if the report is posted publicly, which is the preferred result.

Thanks for your attention to this matter.

Arthur Green


From: Belcher, Catherine

Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 1:45 PM

To: azgreen@comcast.net

Subject: RTK – Staffing Report A12B

Hello Mr. Green,

This email serves as notification that the item you requested under RSA 91-A (specifically A12 Staffing data) is available for pick up at the Superintendent’s Office.  There are a total of 18 pages.  The cost for copies associated with right-to-know requests is $.50 per page, thus your total is $9.00.

Kindly note our business hours of Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

Thank you,

Cathy


October 29, 2015  7:45 a.m.
Ms. Belcher,
Thanks for your note.
As a clarification, this information in the past has been publicly available in the Budget Committee folder on the district website.
  • Will this year’s staffing report be posted publicly?
  • Will it be posted immediately after I pay the fee for the documents provided under Right to Know?
  • Will it be withheld from general public availability until I pay the fee?
Thanks for your help with this.

Arthur Green


Note:  Lest you think Mr. Green is being sarcastic in his email, you should know that in November 2014 Mr. Green obtained the school tax calculations for the district towns via a Right to Know request and was charged $20. Within an hour of him picking it up from the SAU office (because they refuse to email RTK requests) the information was posted to the Budget Committee website and was publicly available.

The SAU’s charge for their service to the Timberlane community is going up more than 16% in the coming budget. The SAU’s budget will have gone up more than 31% over two budget years. There will be a public hearing on the SAU budget on Nov. 18.  During this hearing, the board is expected to vote to increase the health insurance line so the budget increase will be more than 16%. Voters cannot change the SAU budget.  Only the SAU board has control of the budget but they act like it is an object of holy reverence – from the SAU’s lips to the board’s obsequious “yes!”  (The SAU board is composed of both the Timberlane and Hampstead School Boards.)

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4 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

4 responses to “Information Hide and Seek

  1. Pattie O'Sullivan

    http://www.bbklaw.com/?t=40&an=35983
    A Government Agency Must Allow the Public to Inspect Records at No Cost, Judge Rules

    DECEMBER 29, 2014
    A judge has ruled that a California school district’s charging policy for viewing public documents violates the Public Records Act. At issue was Redlands Unified School District’s practice of charging 25 cents a page to copy documents that required redaction before allowing a member of the public to inspect them.
    San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Bryan Foster said members of the public should be allowed to inspect the documents for free, but that, if copying is required, the District overcharged for the duplication. If it is necessary to make copies before producing documents under the PRA, Foster said a public agency can charge only for the costs of direct duplication — not the costs associated with reviewing the request or redacting the documents. Foster ordered the District to reduce its copying fee from 25 cents per copy to 10 cents per copy to comply with state law requirements that government agencies charge only for “direct duplication” costs.
    Redlands Unified School District has not filed a notice of appeal within the required 60-day period of Foster’s Sept. 29 order that its public records policies violate state law and must be changed. The case does not set precedent, but was closely watched because of the issues it raised.
    The lawsuit began when Maia Pawooskar, the mother of a special education student, filed a public records request seeking billing records for an attorney hired to represent the District in an administrative hearing against Powooskar’s son. The District claimed not to have the records she was looking for, so Powooskar expanded her search, and the District produced 11,180 pages of documents.
    The District claimed that, because the records contained personal information, they needed to be redacted before Pawooskar could inspect them, and that redacting the documents would require copies to be made. The District did not allow Pawooskar to inspect the documents to decide which documents she wanted to copy. Instead, the District indicated it would charge 25 cents to copy each page — meaning Pawooskar could have paid $2,795 to view the documents.
    State law provides that members of the public can inspect documents at no cost; however, if copies must be made, government agencies can charge only for the direct duplication costs and not the “ancillary” costs associated with retrieving, inspecting and handling the documents.
    The District stated that its 25 cent rate was based on the fact that senior staff members process the records, and their salaries are higher than those of the employees who operate the copy machine. Foster ruled that this approach is out of line with state law, and ordered the District to reduce the rate to 10 cents per copy.
    If you have questions about this ruling, how it will affect your municipality or agency, or the PRA in general, please contact the attorney author of this legal alert listed at right in the firm’s Municipal Law practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
    Disclaimer: BB&K legal alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.

    • This would be a state ruling and not apply in NH, but we share the same spirit of the law. Thank you for posting this. Forgive me if I think it even more outrageous that an elected official must pay money to pry information out of a recalcitrant administration in order to do her job.

    • Pattie,

      One of my Righto-to-Know-NH friends found the actual court ruling thanks to your heads up. We appreciate your message!

  2. mark Acciard

    Here in NH you also have the right to inspect documents at no charge, and even bring your own scanner, or take a picture of them, etc. at no charge. There is no reason to pay for public information

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