Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Compliance
1. When a written request for review or copies of documents comes in, a written communication should be immediately sent back to the requesting party acknowledging receipt of the request.
This letter should also state that the Town will coordinate with the correct department head where the records may be kept; and it should inform the requesting party that it may take more than four (4) business days from receipt by the Town of the request to comply with the request (any response not given within four (4) business days may be considered a denial under the Freedom of Information Act; therefore, the need for the letter).
2. A copy of the written request received by the Town should be forwarded to the First Selectmen’s Office, the department head whose department is the keeper of the requested records (if they were not the original recipient of the request), and the Town Attorney, so that those parties may review and comment on the request.
3. If the department head concludes that compliance with the request can be accomplished fairly easily (i.e. request for a letter or report that can easily be copied), then a copy should be made and the requesting party should be contacted to see if they want the copy mailed to them or if they want to come in to Town Hall and pick it up.
If, however, the department head determines that the request requires some type of inspection and review of several town files, or requests documentation that is not kept in the same format that the requesting party is asking for, then a written response to the party should be sent to the party identifying and stating the following facts:
The Freedom of Information Act does not require the Town or any of its employees to be “research librarians.” The Act simply allows for the inspection of public documents and the copying thereof. Moreover, the Town is not obligated to compile information and answer questions that may not be in the form the requesting part has in mind.
The requesting party should be told that they are welcome to review the records and gather the information from those records during normal business hours. They should be given the name and number of the department head or employee that they should contact to pick a mutually agreeable time when the requesting party can come in and review of the files.
4. If the Town decides to comply with the request and it involves copying existing documents, BUT the Town needs to review and redact other information contained in the documents, the Town must then estimate the time it will take and give a date to the requesting party as to when the redacted documents will be ready. If that date cannot be met for any reason, a follow up letter explaining the progress to date and establishing a new date must be given to the requesting party.
5. All copies of records made under the Freedom of Information Act should be billed at the statutory rate of .50 per page. This charge should be done without any exception so that the Town cannot be accused of favoritism by requesting parties. The Town may request that any copying job that will cost more than $10 (i.e. 20 pages or more) be prepaid by the requesting party. Non-profits may request a waiver of the fees, and a decision on said waiver shall be made by the Board of Selectman.
6. When requested records made under the Freedom of Information Act is received via a CD, a charge equal to the cost of the CD plus the cost to the Town to prepare the CD will be charged. The cost to the Town to prepare the CD is defined as the hourly rate of the person who is tasked with preparing the content of the CD (i.e. if a person who gets paid $30 an hour and it takes two hours to prepare the CD, the Town would charge $60 plus the cost of the CD).
The Town may request pre-payment by the requesting party if the copying costs to complete the request exceeds $10 or more. Non-profits may request a waiver of fees and a decision on said waiver shall be made by the Board of Selectmen.