Sunday, August 26, 2007

Little Acorns

At first glance this posting at New Hartford Online may not seem like that big a deal, but I think it's going to have some interesting long-term effects.

At first, we were told we would have to pay for the town board meeting minutes because the Town Clerk said they were only available in pdf format; those minutes are often 30 or more pages at $.25 per page, it adds up. Knowing that the Freedom of Information Law had recently been amended to allow for electronic transmission of requested documents, Concerned Citizens once again challenged the town and requested that the board minutes be sent to us electronically to our email address. The Town Clerk contacted Mr. Freeman from the Committee on Open Government regarding our request. Once again, Mr. Freeman sided with us and stated that, according to law, any documents that are created in an electronic medium must be made available electronically, without charge, if requested in that form.

Emphasis mine.

Head on over read the full post and the linked letter from the COG as well. This is an excellent example of how local governments try to keep information secret and difficult to access for no other reason than sheer cussedness. How difficult could it possibly be to just email the minutes of a public meeting? Why would public employees expend all this time and effort, effectively wasting our considerable monetary investment in their employment, when the alternative is a hell of a lot less work?

I'm also intrigued by the implications of the COG's statement on other fronts. If public documents in electronic form have to be provided without cost, what impact does that have on our good friend Ms. Deperno and her plans for the Oneida County Clerks Office ? It would appear that charging people to access the existing digital document database is illegal, which would seem to put the kibosh on at least one of the proposals she's rumored to be considering. Does this mean anyone could request a copy of the database itself, since it surely meets the requirements for an electronic document? If so, that would render her whole password/logon system, a proposal that raises serious privacy concerns in and of itself, a bit moot.