The Clintonville City Council moved forward, at its meeting, Tuesday, July 8, with plans to eliminate the open records fees for city council members.
Citizens would still have to pay the fees.
Mayor Judy Magee said alderman Greg Rose asked that the open records item be placed on the agenda.
Rose told the council that he had placed an open records request that led to a lot of paperwork being printed at a cost of $90.75.
“I paid for it because I felt it was necessary upfront to pay for what you get,” Rose said. “But as a council member I’m obligated to do my job, and in this case I felt it was necessary to do my job with an open records request which led me to this cost.”
Rose did not explain to the council why he thought this open records request needed to be done in order for him to do his job as a council member.
“I’m just coming to the council right now to put it before you guys to decide what you want to do,” Rose said. “If you want to leave it as is and say, “That was your decision to do that and you pay for what you decide,” that is, I guess, acceptable to me. Or you can say, “Maybe we should cut him a deal, maybe it should be waived because he’s on the council and he’s doing his job.’”
Alderman Jerry Jorgenson said he thought it should be left alone.
“I feel that it’s kind of doing a favor for Alderman Rose,” Jorgenson said.
He pointed out that citizens would not receive this favor.
Alderwoman Gloria Dunlavy said if the open records request was because he was doing his job the fees should be waived to nothing.
Alderwoman Mary Beth Kuester said council members can have free copies made.
“Unfortunately serving on the council there are certain expenses and some people can better absorb it than others. And I just happen to know that Greg, a teacher with four kids, I tend to be sympathetic,” Kuester said.
According to a search of a teachers’ salaries database at www.jsonline.com, Rose’s teaching salary in 2012-13 was $55,546 with a benefit package of $29,613.
Jorgenson added that council members also get paid for the meetings they attend, and that can cover some of those expenses.
Alderman Mark Doornink said he would be in favor of having open records requests by the council in doing their job to be covered by the city.
Kuester made a motion to reimburse Rose for the $90.25, and retroactively reimburse council members for copies made, including open records requests if they are part of their job.
City Attorney April Dunlavy asked for verification that the motion was limited to all future open records requests by council members.
“You have ordinances right now that designate the cost. I think you have ordinances for 25 cents a page,” Dunlavy said.
Kuester said that would not apply to council members if the motion was passed.
Dunlavy said it would be worth some review to make a resolution to change that.
Jorgenson stated that the ordinance and resolution need to be reviewed.
“Can we really do anything by the vote tonight because it’s already a set ordinance,” Jorgenson said.
Dunlavy recommended doing a one-time waiving of the fees and then refer it to committee to address changes.
Kuester amended her motion to reimburse Rose, and to look into waiving the fees in the future for council members. The motion passed 6-3. Rose abstained from the vote. Aldermen Jorgenson, Bill Zienert and Phil Rath voted no.