I made a "Call to Audience" presentation at last week's Oro Valley Town Council meeting. I reported that Oro Valley Town Clerk Bower was participating in political activity while representing the town. She was quoted in a the local advertising circular in support of House Bill 2419.
As we previously reported, this bill, sponsored by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, would allow a government agency to charge $20 per hour after the first eight hours required to fulfill an information request. The bill would not require that agencies charge for requests for the first eight hours. As we wrote in this publication, this bill would curtail Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") requests by requiring cost prohibitive time charges. It would have a “chilling” effect on filing FOIA requests that may exceed 8 hours.
Bower said she is in favor of the bill. I quote: “For the most part, the vast majority would not be affected by this, because most records request are very specific and they don’t take us very long to process,” Bower continued. “But there is an opportunity for abuse because we get a lot of requests from the same people, and they are overly broad requests that take hours to fulfill. I think this bill could maybe address that a little bit." She further reported that three requests in January took more than eight hours to produce.
I made these three requests. The requests were for emails that were sent or received by the Mayor and the six council members for a specific time periods. I made this request to assess whether council members were using town assets to plan, discuss or coordinate the recall of Council Member Mike Zinkin. The request was not a broad. It was unfocused. It was not abusive.
One of the emails we found was one from Council Member Waters advising a strategy for communicating the position to remove Zinkin. He said: "Make it personal." A fews weeks later, at a council meeting, Council Member Snider did just that. His use of the town's email for this purpose was a misappropriation of town assets. It was also proof that he, too, was involved in the recall.
My FOIA email request has brought to light other “questionable practices” described in other emails that the Mayor, council members and town employees engaged in which we will discuss from time to time in future LOVE postings.
Perhaps Town Clerk Bowers should worry less about curtailing FOIA requests and attend to her job of simply fulfilling these request, as she is legally required to do.