BA school district needs lesson in transparency, newspaper says

A $90 search fee for copies of the Broken Arrow school district's itemized legal bills serves only as a deterrent to taxpayers checking up on their government, the executive editor of
The Broken Arrow Ledger writes in a column today.

"This decision to charge does nothing to promote openness and transparency from a school district that has been mired in controversy the last few years," wrote William Swaim. "It makes it that much harder for the average taxpayer to make a legitimate request — in fact, it’s a deterrent."

FOI Oklahoma Blog reported Thursday that Broken Arrow Public Schools Superintendent Gary Gerber authorized a $90 search fee for copies of the district’s itemized legal bills in part because the taxpayer's request lacked a "direct relationship to the education of students."

Gerber told the requester, Beth C. Snellgrove, the fee also was based on “the nature and scope of the request” and “the apparent relationship of the request to the School District’s litigation with a former employee, of whom you are an adamant supporter.”

In short, Gerber discounted the taxpayer as someone seeking to ensure that district officials are properly doing their jobs. The state Open Records Act prohibits charging a search fee to such requesters.

Swaim called Gerber's third justification "appalling."

"Gerber might as well have come out and said, because Snellgrove supported former superintendent Jim Sisney, that she was on the wrong side of the issue and therefore should have to pay for it," Swaim wrote.

To read the full FOI Oklahoma Blog posting:
BA school district charges $90 search fee to redact from legal bills, says records request posed excessive disruption, not pertinent to education

Joey Senat, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
OSU School of Media and Strategic Communication

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.