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Commissioners to discuss info release policy

November 19, 2000

Commissioners to discuss info release policy



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


The Washington County Commissioners are scheduled Tuesday to discuss, and possibly adopt, a written policy for public information requests.

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The policy brings together procedures currently in place for dealing with requests, whether from the public or the news media, and updating some of those procedures, County Attorney Richard Douglas said.

The timing of the policy consideration was sparked by newspaper articles on the Public Information Act which stated that under state law, counties should have a written policy in place for requests for public documents, he said.

No public hearing is planned before policy adoption, he said. However, they may take public comments for up to 10 days, he said.

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There has been no public discussion of the policy so far, he said.

According to Douglas, the policy says:

- The county government must allow anyone to inspect any public record at any reasonable time, with some exceptions. However, with this policy the requirement that all requests must be made in writing has been made more lax. Requests can be made verbally instead.

- There are exceptions for some court documents, retirement documents, library records, any adoption records, as well as many other categories.

- Documents must be provided within 30 days. If a request is going to be denied, the county must tell the person requesting the record of that decision within 10 days.

- The county attorney, or another official, could notify other county employees who could be "adversely affected" by disclosure of the record. That doesn't usually happen, Douglas said.

- A person upset with not getting the requested information can ask for an administrative hearing before an hearing officer in lieu of filing in court.

- Fees are 25 cents (8x11 sheet), $1.00 (a plat) and $5.00 (a large plat) per copy, depending upon the height and width of the documents.

- Search fees are charged at $35.00 per hour after the first two hours.

The fee costs are the same as those currently in place, he said.

The policy is modeled on documents from the state Attorney General's Office.

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