What They Have To Hide

BURYING THE PUBLIC AND PUBLIC WORK

By law, the US public is allowed to see what its government officials do in its name and on its dime. But Monongalia County Schools wants to make you pay for that right, big time. Mon Schools intends to make it policy that:

“The cost of electronic duplication that involves the duplication of files on disc or thumb drive shall be thirty five cents ($.35) per page.”

The item is on the school board meeting agenda for tonight, Policy 1-02.

Two months ago, Jim Bissett reported in the Dominion Post that Freedom of Information Act expert

Pat McGinley, a WVU law professor who has extensively researched FOIA through the years, said public agencies can only charge for the cost of reproducing the documents and nothing else, which means paper and ink cartridges.

Charging for document searches isn’t allowed under the act, he said.

Not according to Mon Schools, which intends to charge the public for the work of its employees who are already paid by the public. The new FOIA request costs are to include:

“…the actual operator time and computer resource usage required to product the copy.”

As if school employees are not already paid by public funds to do such work.

Unreasonable copy fees are not legal either. For digital copies, the only reasonable fee would be zero:

A digital copy, [said Professor McGinley], technically carries no reproduction costs — unless the agency provides a disc to house the data.

“You’re just e-mailing something,” he said.

Why is Monongalia County Schools so desperate to hide what it is doing? $.35 for a single page of email, which costs nothing to copy? It’s sick. Mon Schools: Where only the monied shall be allowed to attempt to know what goes on.

In theory, if Mon Schools elects to supply a thumb drive or disc, they could charge for the drive or disc but not for the individual copies, contrary to what they propose.

But no FOIA requesters should be led to believe that they must pay for a thumb or disc drive at all, ever, because any FOIA policy should note that individuals may simply elect to have the files emailed to them, for free, since emailing essentially costs nothing as well, nothing above what is regularly done as part of lawful and effective public work. There is no need for any cost or charge for any disc or thumb drive by anyone. Surely Mon Schools employees get paid by the public as part of their regular job to use email.

Why again are school board meetings not televised like Morgantown City Council meetings are? We see why right here. Who would want such preposterous, ethically challenged, and legally violative administration to be publicly known?

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