A little while ago a friend of mine sent me this: A Guide to Hiding Records. It’s full of reasons about why it’s important to keep public documents out of the public eye, and helpful tips on how to do so. My favorite:
We can’t do our job if we had to tell everyone what we’re were doing. Gain the sympathy of your superiors by whining about the incredible burden of supplying all the information requested by record-seekers. Claim that revealing this information will make it more difficult for you to do the job you’re supposed to be doing. By taking as much time as possible to fulfill requests, you’ll hit two birds with one stone. One, you’ll have less real work to do. Two, you’ll accomplish just as little by delaying the fulfillment of the open records requests.
It’s funny ’cause it’s true!
Really though, I’ve heard of (or experienced myself) record custodians pulling all of the tricks listed in the link to avoid handing over open records. Why? I have no idea. But tactics such as delays, destruction, errors, and lawyering up are so common that they seem to outweigh actual fulfilled requests. And the worst part is, there isn’t any effective recourse for a person getting the run-around to take. Tell the Attorney General? They don’t care. Take it to the press? They are just as likely to pick the requestor apart than the government agency stalling on a request. Complain to a higher-up in the office? They will stand by the records custodian’s choices. Go to court? Well, yeah, but that can get pretty pricey pretty fast.
In the end, all most people making open records requests can do is hope, and wait, and keep trying.