The Milton School Board president said Monday that the district is overwhelmed with requests for open records.
The board discussed the burden that such requests have placed on the short-staffed district.
Board President Joe Martin said the district has racked up $16,000 in legal bills related to open records requests since Jan. 1 and that there are at least seven more requests in the works.
Anyone can request district records under the state’s open records law.
“We certainly are compelled and willing to honor these record requests, but they come at a considerable cost,” Martin said, adding that fulfilling the requests can be a “burden.”
Shana Lewis, legal counsel for the school board, explained that legal fees can be accrued in a number of ways. Lewis said a government entity can be sued if records are disclosed without following procedures or if they do not process the request correctly.
She also said other districts typically process complex records with legal counsel.
Martin said responding to the requests requires staff members to sometimes stop performing the jobs they are paid to do.
Superintendent Tim Schigur called the requests “daunting” and estimated the district has spent dozens of hours responding to them.
Schigur said the board is chipping away at the requests but that it’s taking longer than usual.
Board members had conflicting thoughts on the topic.
The district’s policy allows it to charge 25 cents per page of records, but the district has only charged for one of the requests in the last six months.
Board member Brian Kvapil said that price is higher than the 1.35 cents per black-and-white page that former Attorney General Brad Schimel recommended in 2018.
“It just doesn’t seem right,” Kvapil said, arguing that the general public has the right to file open records requests.
He said statements like Martin’s about how much time and money the district spends handling requests make it seem like the board is trying to dissuade residents from seeking records.
Board member Diamond McKenna said Monday that residents she has talked to are hearing a lot of rumors about why the requests are taking so long to fulfill.
District Human Resources Director Chris Tukiendorf took on the requests from the previous HR director June 12. He said nobody has told him to delay or decline the requests and that he is working to fill all of them.
“From an HR standpoint, I am ready to take that on,” Tukiendorf said, adding that some requests have been granted the same day.
“We are ready to do that.”