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pinion Letter to the Editor: The Reality of Transparency


Dear Editor,

I recently made a public documents request and learned the reality of transparency requests sent to the school district.

I asked to see all the email messages between Bob Gause and Tim McGonegal for the period around the announcement of the budget deficit (May 1, 2012 to September 30, 2012). The charge for these documents will be $143.90 for redacting and copying.

There are two issues here. Why would you need to redact email messages between the superintendent and a board member as all transactions between these two would be covered under the sunshine laws and should be available for view? If the district is allowed to redact what they do not want the public to see, then transparency is just a sham.

Second issue, it is hard to believe that I am the first person to request these records. This is a pivotal issue around the election and the budget shortfall. The first directive given to the forensic auditors was to determine who knew and when. If the auditors missed this very valuable source of information, then they have made a grievous error.

Am I being charged for preparing records that already have been reviewed by the auditors? I am also not asking for hard copies but digital copies (the actual email messages from the computer). The digital copies cost more ($166.75) as they would need to scan the redacted copies. Both of the prices quoted are only estimates as there may be additional charges if the process takes longer. I checked if I could be allowed to come into the school offices and look at them there, it might cost even more. Can you believe that the newspapers have not already requested this same information?

Bottom line is that I may be charged for documents that probably have already been prepared for others to view, I am being charged for redacting which should be illegal in public records and I am being charged for hard copies which I do not want - I just want to view the records.

This is transparency according to the Manatee School District administration.
Dennis Puckett
East Manatee


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