Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dueling public records requests

Isn't it ironic that a public records request from GraphicsGuy from June 6th still hasn't been filled, but Mayor Carty Finkbeiner issued this press release last last night?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, July 25, 2008

CONTACT:
Elizabeth Phillips
419-245-1016
419-261-3875

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CITY OF TOLEDO ISSUES LETTER REGARDING PUBLIC INFORMATION REQUEST

The City of Toledo requests that the Port Authority should produce the documents requested, as the Port Authority investigation is close to completion.

Below is copy of a letter sent to Port Authority Board Chairman William J. Carroll:


July 25, 2008

William J. Carroll
Chairman, Board of Directors
Toledo Lucas County Port Authority
One Maritime Plaza
Toledo, Ohio 43604

VIA HAND DELIVERY

Re: City’s Document Request of July 21st

Dear Mr. Carroll:

This letter is to inquire as to the status of the documents requested by the City on July 21st. We are disappointed by the lack of response to date. While the City acknowledges that a “reasonable” time is allowed for a public entity to make copies of documents requested, the City would point out that given the “investigation” being undertaken by the Port Authority and reports that that investigation is nearing finality, these records should have already been gathered for purposes of the Port’s investigation. Further, the law does require that documents be made available for prompt inspection. Accordingly, the City of Toledo believes that a reasonable time for record production has already expired. This is especially evident by the fact that you have been quoted as describing the City’s fact gathering as being “redundant”.

To the extent, however, that the Port’s investigator has requested any records that have not been sought by the City, the City now requests copies of any of those additional records. Further, the City would request all minutes, notices, notes, memoranda, correspondence, or documents related to the closed-door meeting conducted by the Port’s Board on July 24, 2008. These records should include any documents that explain the basis for such an executive session, describe the purpose of the executive session, and identify all attendees of the executive session.

If the Port is unable to produce the requested documents by the end of the day today, we will appear at the Port Authority’s offices at 1:00 P.M. on Monday, July 28th to inspect the requested information.

Please call me if you have any questions or concerns. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience.

Respectfully,

Adam Loukx
Acting Director

Side note: The acting director of the City of Toledo Law Department should know better than to request such information about an executive session. The only information that is public relating to the executive session is the vote of the individuals who decided to go into the session and the reason, which was to discuss personnel matters. No other information relating to an executive session is public. Maybe Acting Director Loukx should read the exclusions to the state's public records law.
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Of course, District 2 Councilman Michael Collins, who's been waiting for financials for the Erie Street Market for quite some time, had a reaction and shared it with the entire press release mailing list:

Dear Mr. Loukx,

I read with great interest your letter dated July 25, 2008 to William J. Carroll, Director of the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, wherein you demanded public records based upon a document request of July 21, 2008. Please be advised that on July 21, 2008 I also made a public records request for the financials for the Erie Street Market, from the period of January 1, 2008 thru June 30, 2008.

The specific records I requested consisted of a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement. These records, as part of a normal business practice, should have been available within 24 hours. The crux of my concern is your position, as it relates to documents in which YOU requested, (and now protest), and the fact that you have not received them.

Obviously, my request does not carry the same level of importance to the Mayor and his Administration when it comes to due diligence to the taxpayers of The City of Toledo, albeit, it deals with the financial status of the Erie Street Market at this time, and in my opinion is of far greater importance than your efforts to duplicate an ongoing investigation.

I fully expect the documents requested will be in my office no later than 9am on Monday July 28, 2008.

Respectfully,

D. Michael Collins
Councilman, District 2

Funny how important timely responses to public records requests become when it's the mayor making the request. They seem to think that 2-3 days is plenty of time for the three page/16 item request that they made for records - some going back as far as 10 years. I can't help but wonder why Acting Law Director Adam Loukx isn't jumping up and down over the nearly two months that GraphicsGuy has been waiting for a simple administrative policy...talk about something that should be readily available! Perhaps if GraphicsGuy were to file his mandamus action while news of Carty's demand was still fresh, the point might be made in a very public way???

The mayor, instead of worrying so much about his 'demand' for documents (which is to conduct a so-called 'investigation' that he has no authority to conduct), ought to pay more attention to his own administration and their habitual obstruction of access to public documents. Additionally, kudos to Collins who chose to take advantage of the mayor's impatience to make similar demands for his own request for information.

People who live in glass houses....

4 comments:

Carol said...

The resistance of the Administration to comply with the FOIA requests that it receives is very suspect IMO.

And now their apparent righteous stance over not receiving information they requested 3 days prior is laughable.

If the City of Toledo is truly operating in a responsible and legal manner then these requests should be no obstacle to them. But the lack of response to the FOIA requests made to the City is a true slap in the face to taxpayers.

Mr. Loukx should take the bull by the horns and refuse to be part of this sham. His willingness to participate in this mess only serves to shed a bad light on the legal profession. Ethical behavior be damned!

And Mr. Collins gets my applause for standing up for his, and the taxpayers, rights to this information.

And Graphics Guy gets a big thumbs up for refusing to brushed off like a dandruff speck on a dark sweater. I am sure the hope of the City is that if he is put off enough times that he will give up. I happen to know he's like one of Skeldon's dreaded Pit Bulls - and once he latches on he's not letting go till he gets what he asked for.

GraphicsGuy said...

I thought I'd post the letter that I sent to Adam Loukx today and that you read on your show today:

Dear Mr. Loukx:

I have read your letter dated July 25th, 2008 to Toledo Lucas County Port Authority Director William J. Carroll, expressing “disappointment by the lack of response to date” concerning records requested by the City on July 21st.

In your letter, you alluded that the records requested are 'part of normal business' and should have been responded to within a “reasonable time” and further stating “the law does require that documents be made available for prompt inspection". Accordingly, the City of Toledo believes that a "reasonable time for record production has already expired.” , indicating that the 4 days that have passed is more than which is allowable by both City of Toledo Public Records Policy and the Ohio Revised Code.

I have also read Councilman Collins’ letter to you concerning his July 21, 2008 public records request for financials on the Erie Street Market, (also documents produced as part of a normal business practice) and his concern with the Mayor’s resentment at not receiving information requested 3 days prior.

While the City’s indignation at not receiving documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act may be just, I must point out that I have been waiting since June 6, 2008 for documents concerning the 'Administrative Process' mentioned in Toledo Municipal Code, §313.12(d)(4), and since April 7, 2008 for documents concerning red light cameras within the City of Toledo, (which were again requested on June 6, 2008).

One one hand, I find the City’s apparent righteous stance over not receiving information they requested 3 days prior laughable. On the other, I find it disheartening that timely responses to public records requests become ‘more important’ when it's the mayor making the request and not that of a Councilman or a citizen of Toledo.

It is apparent that the obstruction of access to public documents is intentional, deliberate and habitual and is ‘business as usual’ for the Administrators of the City of Toledo. If the City of Toledo is truly operating in a responsible and legal manner, then these requests should be no obstacle. The lack of response to FOIA requests made to the City is a true slap in the face to taxpayers.

In the meantime, I will be awaiting results from my records request for which I have been waiting for well over 3 months.

Cordially,

Maggie Thurber said...

thanks - I'm glad you wrote it!

Hooda Thunkit said...

"People who live in glass houses...."

Should learn to use the restrooms behind the curtains. . .

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