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Copying tab is $90,450; Charlton public records request appealed to state.

Byline: Debbie LaPlaca

CHARLTON - The Charlton Police Alliance has filed a public records complaint with the state regarding what it calls the town's "absurdly bloated" quote of $90,449 for copies of Town Administrator Robin L. Craver's electronic correspondence.

For a one-year period starting June 3, 2009, Ms. Craver sent or received 15,708 e-mails. In a June 3 letter, lawyer Scott W. Dunlap, representing the police union, submitted a public records request for copies of each.

The state public records law allows the town to charge 50 cents per page and a fee based on the hourly rate of the lowest paid employee able to collect the documents. Because of the need to read each e-mail and conceal personnel information or executive session topics, the Board of Selectmen determined that person is Ms. Craver.

Chairman Peter J. Boria replied to Mr. Dunlap with an estimate of $52,230 for Ms. Craver's time, $6,803 for town counsel to review her redaction choices and $31,416 for 62,832 pages.

In closing, Mr. Boria wrote, "We will be glad to recalculate reproduction costs if you wish to narrow or limit your document request."

Mr. Dunlap filed a complaint with the Public Records Division of Secretary of State William F. Galvin's office on July 14.

Alliance President Sgt. Graham Maxfield said yesterday, "I thought the bill was amusing but not based in reality. We will get the e-mails and we won't be paying anywhere near $90,000 for them."

Mr. Dunlap said yesterday the request is police-related but he declined to comment on what police are seeking.

"There have been a number of ongoing disputes," he said.

In his complaint letter, Mr. Dunlap said the hours needed to comply were grossly overestimated, helping result in "this absurdly bloated estimate, which is clearly designed to dissuade citizens with access to public records."

The town based its quote on an average of four minutes per e-mail for review, which, Mr. Dunlap wrote, is the equivalent of 139 full work days, or 28 work weeks.

In an interview yesterday, Ms. Craver said, "This office works very hard to provide information requested by residents. If Mr. Dunlap is willing to narrow the scope of his request, we could get it to him at a lower cost."

At this time, he is not.

"I am not willing to limit my request to a topic for the town to determine what is and is not the topic. I have a pretty good idea what I'm going to find but if I limit it in any way, I suspect I'm not going to find what I'm looking for," Mr. Dunlap said.

Brian McNiff, the secretary of state's spokesman, said his office has not reached a decision regarding the complaint.


CUTLINE: High pursuit

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 31, 2010
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