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But Did You Ever Get Your Five Grand?

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: Brother_p | May 10, 2022

As a former school board privacy officer, I dealt with many Freedom Of Information requests from the public that dealt with anything from salaries of senior employees to the value of contracts awarded to emails about routine business.

Occasionally, someone would submit a very complex request that would require a lot of time to complete. So it was with one parent who wanted thousands of emails, committee meeting minutes, reports, and the personal notes of a dozen different school board employees. The reason? She had requested that her children’s bus stop move from the entrance of the cul-de-sac she lived on to right in front of her house. While the difference was only about 100m (109 yards), the request was denied because the circle at end of the cul-de-sac was too small for the bus to turn around.

After I’d worked on the request for more than a month, the parent grew impatient and demanded to know what was taking so long. I tried to explain I was a one-man operation, but she started making accusations that I was part of a conspiracy against her. She demanded that I produce all the records immediately or, “I will contact my lawyer!”

Now, I’m smart enough to know that anyone who says, “I will contact my lawyer,” doesn’t have one, especially not one who specializes in Freedom Of Information requests. But, playing along, I said, “Oh, we don’t want it to come to that. I’ll finish this today,” and hung up.

So, I did. The legislation requires that we charge $7.50 per fifteen minutes of search time for records, plus $7.50 per fifteen minutes of preparation time (redacting personal information, eliminating non-responsive info, etc.), plus other incidental costs (copying, printing, etc.). Because I had to have ICT help with the emails and computer records, the charges added up rapidly. I called the parent back the next day and told her the first batch of records would be ready by the end of the week. Then, I asked how she’d like to pay the costs.

Parent: “The costs? What costs? How much?”

Me: “$4,870. As I’m sure your lawyer will explain, 50% is payable up front before we proceed any further with the request. Then, we can start on the next batch.”

There was dead quiet on the other end of the phone.

Parent: “You haven’t heard the end of this! I’m calling [Local News Station]!” *Hangs up*

It is now three years later. I’m still waiting.

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