Letter: County salary request withheld for money

400-REC-RANDY-COVINGTONLetter: County salary request withheld for money

Randy Covington
St Augustine, FL

Dear Editor:

On September 4, I contacted County Administrator, Michael Wanchick, and Budget Director Douglas Timms to request a list of St Johns County employee salaries for 2012, 2013, and proposed in the 2014 budget, so that I would be prepared to discuss the subject during the second and final public hearing on September 24, 2013.

In a response from Assistant County Attorney Diane Lehmann, I was told that staff has been “working diligently” to provide me with an estimate regarding the time necessary to identify and compile the records responsive to your request.

“Staff estimates it will take approximately 3 hours at an hourly rate of approximately $21.28 dollars per hour, totaling $63.84,” Lehmann wrote in an 8:00 a.m. e-mail to me this morning. “Before expending the extensive staff time necessary to gather and compile the records responsive to your request, you are requested to provide consent to proceed upon your payment of a deposit of $31.92 (which is 50% of the minimum estimated cost associated with responding to your request). Upon your consent and receipt of the deposit, staff will be directed to immediately and expeditiously collect the requested documents. The balance of the total amount due can be paid at the time the records are available for pickup.”

Citing Florida Institutional Legal Services v. Florida Department of Corrections and Malone v. City of Satellite Beach, relating to compiling and charging the public to respond to requests that require “extensive clerical or information technology resources”, I have to ask; doesn’t that information already exist as part of the current budget process?

If it does not, then the county is negligent in executing its duties to manage the finances of the county diligently. We will just let the public know that, once again, the county wishes to deny the rightful owners of that information access to it.

I am sure staff has shared those figures with Commissioners, and, based on what I have heard, because of changes that occurred last year, and those that are slated to occur next year, the county does not wish to make the information public.

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