Monday, November 14, 2016

Editorial: The Fight for Transparency in Oro Valley, Part 1

The Town of Oro Valley prides itself on its transparency, yet Mike Zinkin is having a difficult time getting the town to comply with THE LAW regarding his request to receive copies of all Council Reports and Council Forwards beginning November 2016 through December 2018. This request is legal under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Zinkin is requesting this information so that he may continue to monitor the El Con Community Center and Golf Course financials. Below is a synopsis of his correspondence with Town Clerk, Michael Standish. (This information is all in the public record.)

The Conundrum 
Zinkin was initially told that the town cannot accept requests for future documents and that he would need to request each document when it became available. This created a conundrum. With Zinkin no longer on council, how would he know when the requested documents became available? He contacted Town Clerk, Michael Standish, for advice.

Town Offers Impractical Solution
Standish told Zinkin that he could, “submit the request as frequently as you would like, e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.” The problem with this “solution” is that it would involve a lot of unnecessary work, not only on the part of Mike Zinkin who would have to submit repeated requests, but also on the part of the town staff who would have to respond to multiple individual requests.

This is especially pertinent when you consider that, according to Standish, after the town implemented an on-line public records request system in 2014, “the number of public records processed by my office in the 2014 and 2015 calendar years, increased by approximately 65% and 95% respectively.” He continued, “it placed additional burdens on our staff.”

Zinkin Offers Win-Win Solutions
Wouldn’t it make sense then that rather than tie up an already overburdened staff with repetitive requests for the same documents, that it would be less time-consuming for everyone involved if the town would simply add Mike Zinkin to the e-mail distribution list for all such reports? That’s all that Mike is asking and it’s a win-win for everyone.

Zinkin also suggested that the town could place all Council Forwards and Council Reports on the town website. He advised Standish, “There are many communities that currently do this, so the Town does not have to reinvent the wheel.”

After multiple e-mail exchanges, Zinkin asked the compelling question, “Is my request against the law or is it against Town ability?”

Stay tuned for the answer to this question (and more) in Part 2 which will be posted this Wednesday, November 16th.