Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why hide Anything?

Lehigh County is hosting, Barry Fox, from Pennsylvania’s new Office of Open Records to help municipal and county officials better understand the changes to Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law. Invitees include all local government officials.

Coincidentally, I questioned Lehigh County’s own open records procedure after County Commissioner Browning revealed a more detailed version of the County budget and offered to share it.

Being the stinker I am, I asked the Commissioner's Clerk for my own copy. I wanted to post it.

The Clerk balked. Apparently the budget book was over 500 pages. So he suggested that I bring my own photocopier and stay awhile or their charge to me would exceed $250! Thats a barrier for me, but not a violation of the law.

So I asked for the electronic version. Surely the spreadsheet was derived from a larger computer file!

Alas no electronic version of the County budget book ever existed, or so they said! That gives me pause! For many reasons, but I take them at their word and thank Browning for offering to share his copy!

In other news, Philadelphia Newspapers sued Philadelphia Mayor Nutter and City Council alleging that reporters were illegally barred from a secret budget meeting between Nutter and Council. A request for an injunction was denied.

Locally, miffed residents in Heidelberg Township were denied copies of a draft budget. Heidelberg's new Township Administrator said the draft budget was "a working document and does not need to be released to the public."

Again, arguably not a technical violation of the law, but why hide it?

12 comments:

eckville press said...

Why hide anything?

Good point.

Check out Heidelberg's up and coming web site.

Lynn may want to follow suit?

Many more Board minutes available.

Lynn Sewer Authority Minutes?

Why not post the list of monthly bill? Both the townships and the authority, including payroll with individual breakdown.

Time sheets?

DAMN YOU ECK!!!

The residents and customers could then have a better understanding were their money actually is spent and to the particular vendors.

IT IS OUR MONEY.

Also if more information was available on line, township personnel would not have to deal with those pesky record requests.

NLVlogic said...

We thought about pay and invoice info. Its included in our minutes but potentially could include some personal information, such as who called in sick, FMLA, who is on vacation etc. Some were concerned about the possible results of an inadvertent disclosure.

The Authority is a separate entity. Their minutes and employee are not ours. We'd give them a area on our web site if they'd want one, but alas, I have minimal, dare I say zilch, influence with them. Methinks the employees there still run the roost. You'd think we'd learn from history vis-a-vis working members.

We could do PC, EAC minutes.

eckville press said...

There's a old saying that goes something like "Those who forget history continue to make the same mistakes"

In light of the recent Ethics Commission Order plus the Ethic Order on Mr. christ prior, Eck could say with prudence since 1997 till the end of 2005 Mr christ could not only control his temptation to line his pockets with public funds but also turned a blind eye to misconduct by a employee under his watch as Director of Operations?

Could there be more?

Would your colleague, having expertise in running his own
business hire a individual who committed these acts against their employer? (in these cases the taxpayers)

If not why should Lynn's residents suffer the agony of corrupt officials?

By Ecks math that's approximately $10,000 discovered misappropriated to local elected/appointed officials and their family members.

So once again, under the circumstances of the actions of corrupt local elected officials prior, committed so secretly that Lynn's own elected auditors could not uncover the shenanigans, yes the taxpayers must unfurtunaly bear the cost of outside auditors.

Furthermore lets not forget, in 2006 there were secret meetings leading to the hiring/firing or say Eck say "hiring/hiring/firing" of outside attorneys to draft a secret ordinance. Elected officials running the flea market.
And last but not least, expenses in the park being questioned by a board member.

Perhaps well intentioned but lets be sure.

We don't need anyone asking, "Are you saying Lynn Townships dirty?"

Anonymous said...

You're insulting our elected officials!

I think the sad part is that most folks don't get informed and turn out to vote in municipal elections.

The truth is, we can do very little at the State and Federal level, but we can do very much at the local level, if we care to get informed, perhaps run for local office, volunteer for appointment to various boards, the planning commission, etc. We must be willing to put our time in where our complaints are, whatever our governing complaints may lie, whichever we hold dear!

In truth, local government controls our lives much moreso than State & Federal.

nlv

Anonymous said...

Section 1307 of Act 3 seems to imply that the county can not charge you more than the prevailing market value for making copies. When I checked with the local "Staples" store, the cost for one sided copies was 32 cents. Keep in mind that this fee quoted by "Staples" included them conducting the act of copying. I did not see within Act 3 that the County can charge any sort of processing fee to perform the copying of records. Hope this helps.

On a lighter note, the word verification for this post is "puper"? Go figure.

Name Withheld

Anonymous said...

I must correct my previous post for a mathematical error.

I asked "Staples" for a quote with 500 pages with 5 copies of the total page count. Therefor, the price would .06 to .07 per page, one sided copying. "Office Depot" also quoted .08 per page.


Name Withheld

Anonymous said...

Name Witheld.

I'd expect the County has a duly enacted fee schedule, underwhich such charges are lawful unless wholly unreasonable.


NLV

Anonymous said...

Section 1307 of Act 3

Act 3 of which year?

nlv

Anonymous said...

NVL,

Pennsylvania’s New Right to Know Law

Act 3 of 2008, as signed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell on February 14, 2008

Effective January 1, 2009

http://openrecords.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=4434&&PageID=466460&level=2&css=L2&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true

Unfortunately that effective date above, January 1, 2009, is not going to help you today. If you scroll down to section 1307 you can read the text and arrive at your own conclusion.

Name Withheld

Anonymous said...

NLV,

Section 1307. Fee limitations.

(a) Postage. — Fees for postage may not exceed the actual cost of mailing.

(b) Duplication. —

(1) Fees for duplication by photocopying, printing from electronic media or microfilm, copying onto

electronic media, transmission by facsimile or other electronic means and other means of duplication

shall be established:

(i) by the Office of Open Records, for Commonwealth agencies and local agencies;

(ii) by each judicial agency; and

(iii) by each legislative agency.

(2) The fees must be reasonable and based on prevailing fees for comparable duplication services provided

by local business entities.

(3) Fees for local agencies may reflect regional price differences.

Name Withheld

Anonymous said...

Oh duh is me. Bought I thought you were referring to something else.
nlv

Mark Mahoney said...

Their excuse is BS. Unless they typed the budget by hand on a old Smith-Corona, that thing is available electronically. How were they able to get it in a form so they could print it out? We here in NY have a new law that requires governments to prepare electronic documents when possible, and it's been a godsend. No copy costs. Don't buy their excuses.