Director's Emails Cost Board $15,000 To Keep Secret

In September of 2013 the Board received a personal information request from one of it's employees asking if there were any records of recently retired Director Mike Pautler that indicated he had filed a complaint against one of his employees. That employee, Mark Whinton submitted his request along with the mandatory $5.00 fee. The Board responded stating it was going to cost $2,500 and needed $1,250 as a deposit, they needed a time extension and if they did find any records they may not be able to release them because of other loopholes in the FOI Act, but he would still have to pay regardless of the outcome.

Mr Whinton promptly appealed the high cost by spending an additional $10.00 to file an official appeal. During the appeal process the fee estimate from the Board was raised from $2,500 to $5,700 because once the Board started looking for the records they realized that $2,500 was just too low of an estimate given the time they were now spending looking for Mr. Pautler's emails. The Board hired a lawyer to fight the appeal and explain to the Information and Privacy Commision  that retrieving the Director's emails from 2009 to 2012 was extremely difficult and time consuming and that some of the records may be lost. They also made the point that it had already spent $3,000 in computer costs just to look for the records let alone find anything. After supplying the IPC with two affidavits from IT personnel the IPC decided the costs were justified and denied the appeal. Mr. Whinton then filed another FOI request, again paying the $5.00 application fee, to find out just what it cost the Board to keep it's information secret from his first FOI request. This time the Board didn't appeal and said the charge for the information would be $16.20. After paying the fee the information was released revealing that the Board had paid $12,371.04 in lawyers fees + $3,000 in computer costs for a total of $15,371.04 Mr. Whinton's costs for filing two FOI requests and one appeal $36.20. Makes you wonder how much money a public institution will spend in order to keep a few emails secret.

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