RUSK – An ordinance unanimously adopted Thursday by the Rusk City Council formalizes the city's public information request policy, establishing specific time frames for procuring information in order to stave off “vexatious requests.”
The dictionary defines vexatious as “causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration or worry.”
Ordinance No. 2020-02, said Rusk City Secretary Cinda Etheridge, addresses habitual open records requests, for which the city follows state guidelines.
The state's Public Information Act allows “government entities to establish reasonable monthly and yearly limits” on the amount of time that an employee of a government entity is required to spend gathering and producing public information that is requested, “without recovering its costs attributable to that personnel time,” the ordinance noted.
Rusk's ordinance – which went into effect immediately – specified limits for requests: City personnel are limited to 36 hours during any given 12-month search during the city's fiscal year (which begins Oct. 1), or 15 hours per month beginning on the first of each month without recovering the city's costs to fulfill the request.
Each is described as a “reasonable limit” under the ordinance.
However, should a request take more time than that allotted by the ordinance, a person requesting information “will be charged personnel costs in accordance with Texas Government code for all time in excess of” the described limits, with charges set at $15 per hour for employee research plus 10 cents per page or actual cost for producing copies. The ordinance noted that “if the actual cost exceeds the Attorney General's Office charge by more than 25 percent,” the city's records management officer “may request permission to charge more.”
A written estimate will be provided by city officials within 10 business days of receiving a request, and is to include materials, personnel time and overhead expenses involved in fulfilling the request. The one making the request has 60 days to submit payment for the request; charges will be withdrawn after that time.
Rusk's ordinance specifically discusses “vexatious requests” – those which “can impose great financial and time burdens on the city, as (such) requests typically require city personnel to divert their time spent on normal tasks to locate, compile and reproduce the requested information.”
Meanwhile, in other action, city leaders ordered a May 2 election for the District 3, District 4 and District 5 seats, which have terms expiring in May.
At this time, Etheridge said, the only ones to file for election are incumbents Martin Holsome (Dist. 3), Martha Neely (Dist. 4) and Frances Long (Dist. 5).
Candidacy filing period closes at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14, for municipal and school board elections across the state. Applications may be found at municipal and district offices.
A third item on Thursday's agenda was only a discussion item, Etheridge said, with no action taken.
“It was more like a workshop to answer the council's questions about requesting financial participation from the Texas Water Development Board in applying for an application for improving storage tanks at Plant 1, Plant 2 and Plant 6, she said.
The item is expected to be on a future agenda, she added.