Published August 28. 2020 11:58AM
Right to Know requests and appeals in Lehighton Area School District have its solicitor looking for a change in policy.
Attorney Eric Filer told the district’s board of directors Monday night that there have been 18 appeals of Lehighton RTK decisions filed with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records since May and four are currently active.
“I’m suggesting the board do a policy in regards to making certain documents easily available,” Filer said. “We are getting requests for documents publicly available on the website. It’s a waste of district funds what is going on right now.”
Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said the district spent $5,432.15 in June responding to requests and appeals from board member David Bradley.
“This does not include the amount of administrative time also involved in this process,” Cleaver said. “For the month of July, the district has been billed $1,156.65 as of the invoice dated Aug. 11.”
Bradley, however, said it would cost the district nothing to provide him with information without him having to file an RTK.
“The fact that our own policy requires a board director to file an RTK to get information is asinine to say the least,” Bradley said. “Every time I ask for information, the district has five days to respond, and when it does not, it turns into an appeal. The fact that the district doesn’t respond and offer financial transparency is costing this district money to block that lawful transparency.”
According to Filer, Bradley has asked for information in the past, received it, and still filed an RTK appeal.
One such instance, he said, was Bradley’s request of the district’s 2018-19 annual financial report in February.
“He filed an appeal in May after he already had the document and asked for a civil penalty against the district for not providing it,” Filer said.
Board President Larry Stern said it isn’t only Bradley’s RTK requests costing the district money. Lehighton’s Aug. 10 meeting ran roughly six hours, Stern estimated, between the executive session and the regular meeting that followed.
“Mr. Bradley’s filibustering at the meeting is costing us $150 per hour to our lawyer to sit here and listen to him talk,” Stern said. “I have no problem with him making his points, but the constant making of points over and over again just because he can, that really doesn’t make sense.”
The district’s bill from Filer for the Aug. 10 meeting, Stern said, was close to $900.
Bradley, meanwhile, questioned whether the district is happy its lawyer is financially benefiting from RTK appeals.
“It’s almost like this board likes litigation so our solicitor makes money,” he said. “It’s a churning of the system.”
— to www.tnonline.com