Greenville settles FOIA lawsuit with Eureka


By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 9:19 am on Tuesday, October 22, 2013

City Manager George Bosanic, left, defended the city’s FOIA lawsuit with Eureka Township, calling it “good management.” Mayor John Hoppough, right, noted the city council only wants to “get along” with other government entities. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

 

Clarification: At the Oct. 15 Greenville City Council meeting, City Manager George Bosanic defended the city’s lawsuit against Eureka Township, saying the purpose of the city’s Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request was to see if a subsequent agreement to a 1986 agreement was ever entered into between the city and the township. Bosanic said it was strongly suggested that such a document existed according to some township residents who were around during that time period. This information was not clear in the article “Greenville Settles FOIA Lawsuit with Eureka” in the Oct. 16 issue of The Daily News.

 

GREENVILLE — After about a year of costly legal wrangling, Greenville has finally accepted a settlement agreement with Eureka Township regarding a fee the township attempted to levy against the city for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The Eureka Township Board previously approved the settlement language at a meeting in October. The document presented to Greenville City Council members at Tuesday’s meeting was the settlement the township and its legal advisers came up with.

That settlement requires the township to waive the $400 fee it originally tried to charge the city for the FOIA’d information. Also, the township must contribute $2,500 to the Greenville Department of Public Safety for new accessories or equipment for use in all municipalities served by the department, including Eureka Township. Those funds must be paid within 30 days.

The settlement also requires the township to “review with its legal counsel the township’s current FOIA policies and procedures to ensure future compliance with the FOIA.”

City Manager George Bosanic opined the fact that the issue has been ongoing for a year and criticized its coverage in The Daily News.

“What is amazing to me is that this has been a year-long process,” Bosanic said. “There were many articles written about it and many editorials; I didn’t read them all.”

Bosanic defended the lawsuit, saying there was a document the city needed, which the township did not have the right to charge for.

“That never got printed,” Bosanic said. “(What I did) was good management. I’ll take any criticisms from anybody, because that’s the right way to do it.”

Bosanic went on to accuse the township of maintaining a “double standard” when it came do doling out FOIA request information.

Mayor John Hoppough provided a more conciliatory tone, pointing out that Bosanic did everything in his power to keep the matter from resulting in a lawsuit.

“The public gets the idea we’re not trying to get along,” Hoppough said. “But we’re trying to get along more than most people in the community would believe.”

The council voted unanimously to accept the settlement offer as presented.

The council also voted to approve an amendment to the city’s zoning code, based on a recommendation from the Planning Commission. That amendment seeks to halt, or at least slow down, the number of single-family homes within the city being converted to two-family rental units.

The problem, according to Bosanic, is that many of the converted homes fail to provide adequate parking for residents and are often not properly maintained.

“The purpose of the amendment going on in Greenville, that is the traditional neighborhoods becoming less and less single-family owned and occupied and becoming two-family rentals on a 66-by-132 (feet) lot that wasn’t designed for that and yet has been cut in half,” Bosanic said.

Often, residents wind up parking their cars in yards, thereby creating code violations.

“Then there’s the lack of care that goes into the homes,” Bosanic added. “Then other problems occur in the neighborhoods … Our public safety department is becoming babysitters for these neighborhoods. I’m not saying rentals are bad; I’m saying we have a lot of them that are.”

Councilman Mark Lehman suggested the city should be looking at economic or other factors that might be preventing residents from purchasing homes outright, rather than renting.

“What things could the city affect that could maybe break down some of those obstacles?” Lehman said. “(The things) that keep people renting rather than buying. That’s the discussion I would like to have.”

Bosanic suggested the council and Planning Commission get together for a “brainstorming session” to look into possible, long term, solutions.

Meanwhile, the council passed the amendment to the ordinance, which states that all two-family rental units must now be at least 10,000 square feet with 80 feet of lot width.

Homes already converted to two-family rentals are grandfathered in and will be unaffected by the amendment.

In other business, council members voted to:

• Purchase new carpet for the Department of Public Safety.

• Permit street closures for the city’s Christmas Parade.

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