Morrison official objects to city’s public records policy
City sends over employee to watch residents
MORRISON – Want to review public records at City Hall? The city may designate an employee to watch you do so.
At least one alderman disagrees with the process, saying it wastes employees’ time.
At one time, residents could review documents in the empty City Council chambers, next to the city clerk’s office, but that has been converted into office space. Now those reviewing records do so in a basement conference room.
No one works in there, so the city sends an employee to watch over residents, City Administrator Jim Wise said. That’s to prevent the misplacement and misfiling of documents, he said.
“We found it necessary to establish the policy we are now following,” Wise said.
Alderwoman Marti Wood submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to review documents related to the inspection of the buildings at 101-103 W. Main St., which the city acquired after a wall collapsed, rebuilt and recently sold for $2 to a local group.
Wood brought in a man who used to be in the construction business to help her understand the documents.
One of the city’s front-office employees escorted Wood and the man to the basement. The employee brought some work to do, but finished it shortly after, Wood said.
Wood said she spent nearly 2 hours reviewing the documents. She said the employees have better things to do than watching people look at records.
Late last year, she went to City Hall to review legal bills. An employee watched her in the basement room. The previous time, however, she was barred from taking any notes, not even to add up numbers.
At the time, Wise said he set the restrictions for Wood because of attorney-client privilege. He said the documents were private, like a person’s medical information.
This week, Wood said Wise took her aside while she was in the basement room to ask her why she hadn’t informed him that someone else was coming.
“We are obligated to provide a requester documents that they request. They are responsible for identifying those they are requesting for. It’s not a big deal,” he said.
Wood said she emailed that information to Wise.
The city’s policies likely don’t affect many information requesters because they get copies of records.
For larger requests, however, government agencies can bill requesters, who may decide to review documents at City Hall without getting copies.