Tonight, at the CSD board meeting, we received public comment that seemed like a veiled reference to a notion that legal opinions are not free.
Well, I agree and disagree. Here’s what I mean:
When a public body seeks legal opinion from counsel, they charge the public body. Mind you, in the case of the Christina School Board, only one board member can even ask counsel for an opinion by fiat of current board policy.
when a citizen files a FOIA with the AG to determine if a public body has acted within the confines of the open meetings law, that filing is 100% FREE. The AG then notifies the public body of the complaint and the public body has to DECIDE whether to respond via counsel to the allegation. Hopefully, public bodies vote on whether or not to respond, but I know this sometimes does not happen…whatever the reason…but the option to not respond does exist, it’s a choice.
I would believe that if the public body acted wholly within the confines of the law, then a paid response would be unnecessary and that the public body, IF given the opportunity to vote, would allow the AG to opine, again, FOR FREE and validate the public body was in the right.
Recently,. I filed a FOIA to confirm that three recent actions of our board were in compliance with the law in an act of civic responsibility. In 2 of 3 cases, we were compliant, which was GREAT. We did hold an illegal vote (at a meeting I was not present at) at one meeting which was unfortunate, but the board has promised to not do that again.
The cost of my FOIA complaint? FREE.
The cost of not having the board vote and all the correspondence from the sole empowered board position on the FOIA? If you want to know, FOIA it. I promise you though, it isn’t zero…or come to the next board meeting and ask me directly, and I will review legal line item expenses and the requester/subject for each legal charge in public.
I’m sure tonight’s public comment was in no way intended to suggest that Christina taxpayers should be shamed into not filing FOIAs when they cannot get relief from the public body in question.
I’m almost 100% sure that was not the message…