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Aldermen Need Access To The Municipal Documents
July 5, 2014
It was brought to the board’s attention at the end of the work session Tuesday night, July 1, by Alderman Chris Jackson that he was concerned about certain fees that have been placed on aldermen who request to see municipal documents.
“I do not believe it is good for the community when we start to halt an alderman from having access to documents in order to do their job,” Jackson said.
A 610 request was made by Alderwoman Rita Aholt last week to the city clerk of Lake Lotawana.
The request called for all the documents that disclosed the final specifications of repairs on the I&I project back in 2013. The term I&I refers to the amount of storm water that finds its way into the sanitary sewer during rain storms.
This would include a description of the schedule pipe used for repairs, how the grade was determined and verified, backfill and compaction requirements, the city inspection sign off sheets, results of post testing for obstruction and leakage, compensation paid to the contractor for pipes purposely or accidentally cut and repaired and documentation of all complaints and resolutions of those complaints. Also requested was a copy of all OSHA safety cards of the individual workers on the project, any incident reports or injuries and the cost of all materials to the city, specifically pipe and gravel.
In response to this request, Alderwoman Aholt was told that a fee would be charged based on time spent gathering the documents requested and for every page that needs to be copied.
The concern of Alderman Jackson was primarily to the fact that in order to do the job right, the aldermen need access to the municipal documents.
“I should be able to serve my people to the best of my ability,” Jackson said.
The cost of retrieving such information is very little, but the fees charged will hinder any aldermen from receiving information they need. He recommends that the board not interfere in attempt to keep aldermen from requesting information.
In the case of Alderwoman Aholt, she gave the 610 request to receive information involving a 130,000 project she feels might not have been properly inspected or tested.
“I was informed by the Mayor, the Board decided to use city funds to pay for property owner’s improper connections and agreed to cover the cost of all repair materials,” Aholt states in her 610 request form.
Due to this information, Aholt also requested documentation of those decisions and votes, which includes the date and document that alerted Board members of a nonconforming bid from J&N that would require the City to pay for the materials before the motion to approve the contract took place.
She went on to request a copy of the warranty agreement and any documentation of any and all testing results from all sewer pipes that run under the lake.
“I want to know how fiscally responsible we’re being,” Aholt said. “Are we covering up something done incorrectly and allowing that company to work with us again?”
Discussion ensued at the work session about why an aldermen would need to request information or how request should be made. Some agreed that a fee should be charged for time and paper to limit access to such documents, while others feared that would the wrong direction to take. Other requested only that request be made known to the rest of the Board.
“I want to know what other alderman are requesting so I’m not caught off guard,” Alderman Scott Miles stated.
A decision was reached that when an aldermen makes a request for documents the rest of the Board will be informed at the next meeting. The Board voted to make this a policy and it was passed. The issue of charging a fee on any alderman requesting information was tabled for next month.