Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Sky High Price of Transparency
Besides outright refusal to provide requested documents and then running the risk of losing an appeal to the state Public Records Division (although they have no enforcement powers), another way of keeping things buried is to charge a high price for fulfilling the request.
State law allows "reasonable fees" to be charged by a public institution to fulfill a request, and it really doesn't matter if you are an average citizen or legacy news organization.
Of course these days newspapers can barely afford to pay for employees coffee so an unexpected $11,000 for public documents is a little hard to swallow.
Which of course only makes you wonder, what is UMass trying to hide?
Our flagship of higher education seemed to be pretty transparent last month when they fairly quickly released total costs ($305,000) associated with the Mullins Center Concert designed to distract students from participating in the Blarney Blowout.
So what's the big deal about giving out the cost breakdown? Will Ludacris and Juicy J be upset that Kesha was paid more?
Or are there extra costs we don't know about?
These days public relations personnel outnumber journalists by five to one. With UMass it's far worse since there really are no professional reporters exclusively assigned to cover UMass/Amherst, while their "Office of News & Media Relations" has a full-time staff (many of them former reporters) of eleven.
But when you mess with one reporter, you mess with them all. As well as intelligent readers who take transparency seriously.