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Ennis Daily News

Good day sunshine, perhaps…

By Keven Todd

Good day sunshine, good day sunshine, good day sunshine

I need to laugh and when the sun is out
I’ve got something I can laugh about
I feel good in a special way
I’m in love and it’s a sunny day

Those of us old enough to know who the Beatles were can almost surely finish out the lyrics to one of their most popular of many hits.

Sunshine is generally considered a good thing, unless of course you get weather like what we’ve had lately… When it is 95 degrees and the humidity is a comparable 95 percent, you kind of begin to wish for a passing cloud.

Likewise, sunshine in relation to government is also considered a good thing.  Hence, the Freedom of Information Act was put in place to help shine light into the deepest, darkest crevices of governmental bodies from the local level all the way up to Washington, D.C.

In an ideal world you’d envision the doors being flung open with ease of access to virtually any request, be it one from the media, or John Q. Public. But those of you who’ve had the pleasure of filing a FOIA request with a governmental agency probably know that it’s a bit more complicated than it would seem on the surface.

Depending on the state or locality, FOIA laws typically include a number of provisions detailing the kinds of information that can never see the light of public inspection.  For obvious reasons, personnel records are generally off limits and most states also have a laundry list of other types of documents that are barred as well.

So, when it came to light recently that former Lionettes drill team Director Cassie Ortiz is suing the Ennis Independent School District for overtime pay among other things (the story published in the May 15 edition), The Ennis Daily News filed a FOIA request with the district to obtain emails and other documents that might have a bearing on her relationship with district officials and circumstances that led to what is now pending litigation.

The first response we received to our request came back from the district’s lawyers with a price tag of $575… For what, you might ask? Fair question, so here’s the breakdown:

Estimate of Charges for Production of Copies (applies once copies are requested and the charges are accepted.  The following estimate is subject to reduction if you choose to clarify and/or narrow the scope of your request.)

Copies– $125.00 – 1250 copies @ $.10/copy

Labor – $375.00 – 25 hours ($15.00 per hour for labor to locate, compile, manipulate, and reproduce all documents and to redact information subject to a mandatory exception of the Act for time spent to redact, blackout, or otherwise obscure confidential information in order to release the public information)

Overhead – $75.00 – Overhead Charge (20% of the charge made to cover any labor costs associated with your request)

____________________________

Total-              $575.00

OK, so then the newspaper suggested that a greener and more expeditious option might be to take delivery of the requested documents electronically, and we even offered to supply the memory stick.

That cut our costs a bit:

Revised Estimate of Charges You have requested that information be provided to you in electronic format.  Below are the charges associated with the production of records in this format. (The following estimate is subject to reduction if you choose to clarify and/or narrow the scope of your request.).

Labor: $375.00 25 hours ($15.00 per hour)
Overhead: $  75.00 Overhead Charge (20% of the charge regarding labor costs)
Total: $450.00

Everybody likes to save money, right? So, the newspaper then asked to review the documents and narrow our request to only those that might shed light on events that led up to the lawsuit.

The attorney representing EISD then filed a letter of determination with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office under the premise that many of the documents relating to the newspaper’s request would be exempt from the FOIA law, and included a long list of possible reasons for the exemption, including things like geological or geophysical information or data; information related to competition or bidding; information related to the location or price of a property…  The list goes on and on.

Meanwhile, it would appear that some documents pertinent to the newspaper’s FOIA request will be available for review June 27, and what those documents will be remains to be seen. The rest hinges on the AG’s determination.

Since The Ennis Daily News believes that you, the taxpayers who support the EISD, deserve a little sunshine we’ll keep you posted on how things develop.

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Posted by on Jun 18 2016. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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