STANTON — The lawsuit the city of Greenville filed against Eureka Township has begun to move forward.
On Thursday afternoon, Greenville’s attorney Kenneth Lane and Eureka Township’s attorney Clifford Bloom met with 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Hoseth Kreeger in her chambers to put forth a scheduling order for the lawsuit.
After the private meeting, the attorneys said the next hearing will be May 16.
“(We) have been involved in a lot of settlement hearings,” Bloom said. “We hope to reach (a settlement) soon.”
The city filed a lawsuit against the township on Dec. 28, 2012, involving a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by the city to the township on Sept. 10.
Greenville City Manager George Bosanic requested public records (excluding engineering drawings and maps) related to grinder pumps and a forced sewer main constructed around Baldwin Lake.
Eureka Township Supervisor Laura Shears, who currently is on medical leave, responded to the FOIA request on Sept. 14, 2012, stating it was “very broad in nature and does not specify a given time period” and said it could cost up to $6,000 to research. She suggested a more specific request and asked for a 10-day extension to the FOIA request, which typically must be fulfilled within five business days unless an extension is requested.
Bosanic submitted a revised request on Sept. 17, 2012, seeking copies of all public records from January 1986 to September 2012 (excluding engineering drawings and maps) relating to the grinder pumps and forced sewer main.
The township was required to respond to the request by Sept. 25, 2012, but did not respond until Sept. 27, 2012, when Secretary Renee Fountain again requested a 10-day extension.
Bosanic called the township office on Sept. 18, 2012, informing them their failure to respond to his request violated the FOIA and constituted a denial of the request. Bosanic asked if he could inspect the public documents at the township hall. Shears said she would charge him $10 per hour to look at the documents.
According to state law, the FOIA only allows imposing a fee for a search and/or copying of a request — not to inspect public records.
On Oct. 1, 2012, Bosanic informed Shears she could not lawfully charge him to look at the documents. He told her he was simply seeking to review the agreements made between the city and the township. On Oct. 2, 2012, Shears reasserted the township’s authority to charge Bosanic for looking at the documents.
Bosanic was informed by Shears on Oct. 4, 2012, that the requested documents were ready for delivery and would cost $400 for searching, compiling and copying. Bosanic requested an accounting of the fee on Oct. 8, 2012, along with a copy of the township’s FOIA policy, as he believed the $400 fee to be excessive.
On Oct, 9, 2012, Shears provided an accounting of the fee as follows: “13.5 hours at $10 per hour equals $135. Approximately 1,000 copies at 30 cents per copy equals $300.” Shears did not provide Bosanic with a copy of the township’s FOIA policy.
Shears was informed by Bosanic on Oct. 15, 2012, that the $400 fee violated the FOIA. Bosanic stated he was aware of identical documents that were previously provided to another individual via a FOIA request and the fee for that request was substantially less than $400.
On Nov. 6, 2012, Shears suggested meeting with Bosanic. On Nov. 8, 2012, Bosanic responded that a meeting was not required under the FOIA. Shears indicated a willingness to “sit down and discuss giving you the documents that you need,” on Nov. 12, 2012.