One comment that needs to be made at this point is the fact that it cost us $9.50 to obtain these minutes. Not that we are complaining--as it says on our website, "we are privately funded". What is of concern is the fact that these minutes are typed in Word and could easily be sent to us via the internet just like the APPROVED minutes are sent to us when we submit a Freedom of Information request.
After we submitted our FOIL request for the June 13, 2007 DRAFT minutes, we were sent an email by the town clerk that she had gone "above and beyond her duties" to provide the minutes to us last time. We agree--she did! Here's what was involved in obtaining the DRAFT May 9, 2007 town board minutes:
The Town Clerk typed the minutes in Word and printed them out. Next, someone had to stamp across each of the 30 pages "Unofficial Until Approved by Town Board" and then scan them to pdf format. Next, the pdf file was sent to the Town Planner so that he could copy the file to a cd. He returned the cd to the Town Clerk's office. We were notified that the disk was ready, and we drove to the Town Clerk's office to pick up the disk at a cost of $1.80 for the disk. Whew! I guess the Town Clerk did go "above and beyond".Now, let me show you what a couple of other towns do:
Town of Pittsfield - Uses a heading "Draft Meeting Minutes". Absolutely easy to do in Word, the wordprocessing software used by the Town of New Hartford.
Town of Danube - The Town of Danube uses a watermark on each page. Again, absolutely easy to do in Word.
With either of these two methods the Word file can be sent to us electronically with no additional work on the part of the Town Clerk (or cost to us). It is actually the way we receive the "Approved" minutes each month when we FOIL them.
One other thing you might notice--both of these towns have their "DRAFT" minutes on their Town website for everyone to view. These towns and many other towns don't require that the town board "Approves" of the Town Clerk's minutes prior to releasing the information to the public. By law, the town clerk is charged with the accurate taking of the town board minutes. The public, according to the Open Meetings Law, has the right to those minutes within two (2) weeks after the Town Board meeting. Additionally, the Freedom of Information Law now has a provision for the FOILed documents to be requested and received electronically if they are available in that format without further work. The Town Clerk uses Word to produce her minutes; therefore, they are available electronically.
Concerned Citizens for Honest & Open Government will continue to make information available to all residents; and regardless of the costs to obtain the "public information", it will be provided to everyone for FREE!
We are a "progressive town", indeed!