Records Request Reply

So, 29 days after I asked the Dane County 911 Center for internal e-mails mentioning the Brittany Zimmermann incident, I received this reply. It spills onto the third page, so if you don’t want to read it all I understand (blogs have spoiled me for reading Walls Of Text), and I’m pulling out the interesting parts here.

First sign of trouble: I made the request directly to Joe Norwick, since the Dane County 911 website does not list an open records custodian (side note, the information currently on that website has been revised as of May 28, 2008 and looks much better now than it did a month ago), and my request was answered by Marcia MacKenzie, Dane County Corporation Counsel. Lawyers already?

Next sign of trouble: As the public documents that I am seeking access to are e-mails, that is the format I requested to receive them in. However, Marcia MacKenzie wants to print off all 116 pages responsive to my request ($0.25/page = 29.00) and mail them to me ($4.80) for a total of $33.80. Not a lot of money, but that’s not the point. This seems to me to be a violation of statute 19.35(3)(a) which states that fees “may not exceed the actual, necessary and direct cost of reproduction and transcription of the record”. It is neither actual or necessary to print off and mail these documents – e-mail will work just fine. I presume that the desire to print off the documents stems from

Yet more trouble: the desire to redact information from the publics eye. While I understand and am sympathetic to keeping details of an on-going police investigation on a need to know basis (until the investigation is closed, of course), I have difficulty imagining how 911 Center internal e-mails might affect the search for Brittney Zimmermann’s murderer.

According to this letter, Marcia MacKenzie has

“considered all relevant factors and balanced the public interests in disclosure versus the public interests in non-disclosure and have carefully reviewed all relevent statutory exemptions. It is my conclusion that the public interest in non-disclosure of the redacted or withheld information far outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

Thank goodness there is someone in county government looking out for the poor, stupid public that wouldn’t know how to handle information if they ever got any!

Ugh, I’m starting to create my own Wall of Text here, and frankly I am too annoyed to continue for the moment. More when I get the taste of bile out of my throat.


10 Responses to “Records Request Reply”

  1. 1 Jeni June 12, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I’ve had that “we’ll print and mail this to you at ‘X’ cost” handed to me so many times, too. I really am beginning to believe this is just an attempt to discourage people from requesting open records and subsequently seeing the TRUTH.

    My mom put in an open records request last year; was charged over $60.00. Trusting she was getting what she asked for, she just went in, paid and picked up the documents. Once home and perusing them, she discovered they printed off tons of meeting minutes that are freely availabe ONLINE!

    Point being, one has to be VERY specific as to what they are requesting and look before you pay – they’ll sneak in anything to jack up the costs.

    Sorry,guess I’m ranting, but this has become a pet peeve of mine and I’m so tired of this insane rip off trick. We, as heavily taxed taxpayers, have already paid for the salaries of those who get us the records. We’ve paid for the paper its printed on and the ink used to print it. We’ve even paid for the machine, then we have to pay again to get the information. I was just charged $1.10 a SHEET at our Court house for some open records. Talk about a rip off!

    Oops..said I’d quit ranting, didn’t I. Sorry. 😦

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