Thursday, April 18, 2013

Something Doesn't Add Up

When I made the identical Public Documents request of the town and UMass exactly 10 days ago for their written exchanges since the 1st of January, I was kind of thinking the equation was fairly simple:  UMass Bigwig A writes to town official Bigwig B, who then responds:  that equals one response (C) captured by my request.

So A + B should  = C, or B + A should = the same C.

Of course the reason for the redundancy is to keep people honest.  If each party knows I'm double checking by making the identical request of both parties then they will be careful in giving me all the documents. 

Kind of like cops putting two suspects in separate rooms for an interrogation.  In journalism it's called "verification".

So I'm trying to figure out why UMass (A) is charging 12 times the amount the town (B) is charging to fulfill the identical request (C)?  Anyone?

From: Roussel, Debra
To: Larry Kelley
Cc: Ziomek, David ; Selectboard ; Brian Riley ; Musante, John
Sent: Thu, Apr 18, 2013 6:22 pm
Subject: RE: Public Documents Request

Good afternoon Mr. Kelley,
Thus far we have confirmed a minimum of eight hours of staff time to review, pdf and redact as necessary the documents you have requested.   The lowest paid individual able to produce the documents is paid approximately $32 an hour.  Therefore, if you decide to move forward with the request, you will need to submit a check in the amount of $256.00.  This estimate does not include the cost of paper copies, as it was unclear as to the number of copies that were involved. 
Debra A. Roussel
Assistant to the Town Manager


Anonymous said...

This is crazy. Umass is used to doing things like this. I hope you are independently wealthy.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a theory, Larry?

Do you think they're just messing with you?

Larry Kelley said...


Dr. Ed said...

Larry -- five things.

1: Appeal the bill to the Sec of State -- I forget exactly the provision, but you can cite an unreasonable bill as a denial.

2: They are lying. The network administrators have access to everyone's email and can pull it up -- but they don't want to.

3: They are making public records into the personal records of the person who authored them. This is like saying that you have to hire the Town Manager to pull something out of a filing cabinet because his secretary can't do it. That only Gerald Mooning can tell you how many gallons of Diesel fuel the department burns -- that the clerk down there can't pull the bills out of the file.

What they are essentially saying is that only high ranking administrators can do clerical tasks. Right...

4: The problem with replacing paper or faxed memos with email is that there is no central file anymore, only the personal files of the various individuals.

THIS should be raised with Martha Coakley's folks because my guess is that it borders on illegal if not beyond.

5: I'd consider going to the UM SGA and asking them for a donation to help pay this. UM would totally freak out if you were to do this, even if it was only a token $100 or so, they'd have to figure out how to charge that internally toward a bogus bill -- and to do it in a way that the auditor wouldn't find it.

Go for it!!!

Dr. Ed said...

And one other thing -- there is no way in h*ll that they invited all those folks. A lot of them are UM administrators, not landlords anyway.

One true smoking gun -- Harry Rockland-Miller, the head of UM CCPH. He's a licensed psychologist and the way he gets around some of the stuff he does is that FERPA and not HIPPA applies to student psych records.

But FERPA's like CORI's "Officer Only" -- once there is just one person who isn't (a) a UM employee and (b) hearing this in his/her/its capacity of employee (and not that of citizen, property owner, whatnot), it becomes a big time FERPA violation.

Was he there, and why? And if not, why was he invited -- his name is on your list.

That's the crack in the granite to swing the hammer at -- hit it in just the right place and a granite boulder will shatter like glass.

Larry, the other thing to do is start asking them questions that you already know the answers to, and keeping track of the lies. The're too arrogant to put together a coherent "cover story" and instead just make stuff up on an ad-hoc basis, and that is where they are going to trip up. It'll be something little, something seemingly insignificant, until you can show how much of the rest of it isn't possible because of this one little thing...

Anonymous said...

$32 an hour! That's the lowest paid employee they could find? No wonder educational cost are crushing everyone. Looks like UMass has something to hide. Also very disrespectful to town residents as a whole. Must be nice not to pay property tax and use our resources heavily.

Anonymous said...

yeah, but it's not like clerical workers are just sitting around over there, it's full tilt 40 hours a week.

it's like that.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something? "The lowest paid individual able to produce the documents is paid approximately $32 an hour."
So, is it that the overtime rate of that Town employee? Otherwise, why would you be charged any "labor" cost for him/her to perform job related work during his/her regularly scheduled hours?

Anonymous said...

No, that is not an overtime rate. I suspect that is the rate that the employee who works for the Town Manager gets. They are charging you the hourly rate because that is not a normal clerical expense. That person could be doing work for the Select Board as in prepping for a liquor license hearing.

Town clerical workers never get paid overtime. If they work extra hours, they are expected to take it off the next day or some time that week. Also, they no longer are allowed to accrue comp time.

Anonymous said...

Does their job description state:
"And other responsibilities as directed" like many others?

No OT, take the time off instead, no accruals of comp time and all for only $32 an hour? Poor things.