Americans United for Separation of Church and State

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Church State Issues

Bill would stymie transparency

Mar 1, 2014

Arizona Republic

So Sierra Vista Republican Rep. David Stevens wants to make it more difficult to get public records.

Come one Arizona's public records laws are a joke!!!! Sure the law says you must be quickly provided with all public records you request. But that's just a smoke screen to make the public think they have access to public records.

There are NO criminal or civil PENALTIES WHATSOEVER for an elected official or government employee who refuses to provide you with your public records request.

You can't even call the cops and complain when your public record request is denied. Your only option is to sue the government agency. And the law doesn't even guarantee that if you win you will get the cost of your lawyers paid. The law says you MIGHT be able to get your legal cost back if you win.

I have made over 150 requests for public records to the Tempe Mayor and and city council members and they have responded to my requests no more then twice. Usually my requests are for embarrassing information on police or government misconduct, stuff the city of Tempe would prefer to keep in the dark under the rug.

I am sure the reason the Tempe rulers ignore all my requests for public records is because they know there is no punishment whatsoever when they refuse to obey the law.


Bill would stymie transparency

Wed Feb 26, 2014 7:14 PM

Rep. David Stevens just doesn’t get it.

The Sierra Vista Republican wants to charge citizens for access to the public records they own. He started with a bill that would let government bodies charge the cost of their labor for any records requests that took more than four hours to fill.

That met immediate resistance, so he “compromised.” Now the bill sets the charge at $20 an hour for requests that take more than eight hours to produce.

The problem isn’t the numbers. It’s the principle. Public records belong to the public. Any legislation that erects barriers to access changes the equation, establishing that the records belong to the government. That discourages transparency rather than promoting it.

Stevens is motivated by anecdotes of individuals here and there who use public record requests to harass local officials. Better solutions are already available in case law.

News media organizations and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns also agreed four years ago on a means to deal with people who make repeated requests and don’t pick them up. It never made it into law. It’s still a better, tighter answer than limiting access for citizens with legitimate requests.

Stevens’ bill is overreach. Hasn’t the Legislature done enough of that lately?