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The Lake News Online
  • Sunshine Law fee waiver sought in large request

  • The Camden County Commission took no action on a request to waive the fees for more than $1,000 in man hours to retrieve and sort documents requested under the Missouri Sunshine Law.
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  • The Camden County Commission took no action on a request to waive the fees for more than $1,000 in man hours to retrieve and sort documents requested under the Missouri Sunshine Law.
    The documents are the focal point of an ongoing discussion between county officials and the resident who made the request for what may be the most expensive Sunshine Law request in Camden County history.
    The Sunshine Law governs public meetings and documents. Under the law, certain documents can be requested by the public. The law outlines what is considered a public document and governs what can be charged to retrieve those documents.
    The request was filed by Theresa Townsend, a Greenview business owner and resident. Townsend is asking for emails from all three Camden County commissioners from June 2013 through June 2014. The emails for Presiding Commissioner Kris Franken, Associate Commissioners Bev Thomas and Cliff Luber could, conservatively, run in excess of 5,000 documents, according to estimates from the county.
    While the county has no problem complying with the request, officials would like some assurance the bill is going to be paid, according to Camden County Clerk Rowland Todd.
    Todd's office is the county designee for handling Sunshine Law requests.
    County officials are estimating the costs for producing the documents will be more than $1,000. A final number on the costs will not be available until all the documents are processed. The county is asking for a $700 deposit before they begin the work.
    County Clerk Rowland Todd said filling the request would require an employee of the county's IT department to retrieve all the emails, and all attachments to those emails. A county employee will have to hand sort the emails to make certain any items that do not fall under the Sunshine Law are redacted. The redacted items would be related to personnel issues and/or legal matters.
    Todd said the county has been in touch with the Missouri Attorney General's office to make certain they are complying with the provisions of the law.
    The county estimated it will take approximately 35 hours to prepare the documents at an average of $20 per hour in addition to a 10-cent per page cost for copying charges.
    Todd said the county does not feel it is unfair to ask for a deposit when it will require a full week's work to process the request.
    On Wednesday, Townsend went before the commission to ask for all or part of the fees to be waived.
    Townsend's Sunshine Law request for the emails followed what she described as a "battle" with the former planning and zoning administrator over issues relating to her business, Gidgets Gadgets. Townsend said she was charged double for a building permit and alleged harassment. She alleges it cost her about $3,600.
    Page 2 of 2 - Townsend's aim seemed to be getting part or all of the fees waived though most of her remarks were directed at the commission and the alleged harrassment.
    Aside from the discussion about the documents request, there were several heated exchanges among those attending the meeting.
    In the end, no action was taken. Commissioners did not discuss the request, table it or take any other action.
    Townsend's request has not been rescinded. The county will not move forward until the deposit is received.
    Townsend has also requested print outs of all of the commission minutes from 2012 and for one commissioner's cell phone records.
     
     
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