Eureka Township adopts new FOIA policy after lawsuit


By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 9:51 am on Tuesday, November 12, 2013

 

Eureka Township Supervisor Rod Roy and Treasurer Cindy Hansen discuss the township’s revised FOIA policy, which unanimously adopted at Monday night’s board meeting.

EUREKA TOWNSHIP — As part of its settlement over a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit with the city of Greenville, the Eureka Township Board approved a revised and more extensive policy Monday night for responding to public information requests.

“In all fairness, it will answer all questions and makes sure everything is right. It’s very specific in what we need to do with a FOIA request,” said Supervisor Rod Roy  of the six-page policy sheet. “It looks complicated, but I think everything is more spelled out.”

Last month, the city and township agreed on a settlement on a lawsuit filed by the city after the township attempted to charge hundreds of dollars to fulfill City Manager George Bosanic’s FOIA request for records of an agreement between the two municipalities. Bosanic also was told there was a charge for viewing them in person.

The 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.

The FOIA policy revision also was part of the lawsuit agreement. The new policy spells out a step-by-step process in dealing with FOIA requests and the ruled that go along with it.

“Compared to our little, one-page FOIA policy, this is quite extensive,” Clerk Linda Ruwersma said.

Drafted by the township’s attorney, the policy mostly highlights aspects of the act itself and includes nine sections on different rules and regulations of FOIA requests and responses. Those sections range from the public’s right to view records to the obligations and procedure to follow for the township. It also addresses appeals of FOIA denials.

As part of the policy change, the township also formally appointed a FOIA coordinator, the township’s clerk. In case of the clerk’s absence, the township supervisor will fulfill the role.

The policy revision is one of the final steps in closing the book on the year-long lawsuit.

Earlier this month the Greenville City Council drew the issue to a close after it received the documents it had originally requested.

Bosanic had requested information regarding any potential subsequent agreements between the township and city regarding the sanitary sewer system at Baldwin Lake. There were no such agreements.

The city also called for a more cooperative relationship with the township moving forward, something both sides have said is already being re-established.

“We need to get along better and cooperate more,” said Greenville Mayor John Hoppaugh, adding that both the city and the township have had long histories of working well with other municipalities. “We have really been pioneers in that, collaboration and cooperation. Those words are not new to us. We need to continue to do that.”

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