Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
I recently received a publication from the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas that raises an interesting question: At what volume (if any) do requests for public information become so burdensome on government that they constitute harassment?
This question has come up because the curiosity of two Lake Travis residents, David and Melissa Lovelace, has allegedly killed the local school district's budget. The Lovelaces, who have a son who is disabled, have submitted over 2,200 requests under the state's Public Information Act, many related to special education in Lake Travis schools. School officials say responding has cost them more than $600,000.
Last year a district court judge rejected the school system's claim of harassment, saying nothing in the law limits how much information the public can demand. Legislators are considering changing that, with a bill that would establish additional fees for large FOIA requests.
The bigger question here is why members of the public should even need to ask to have access to government records. As the Austin American-Statesman opined:
Most of those costs could be avoided if school officials made more records available to the public, posted more information online and didn't fight so hard to keep taxpayers in the dark.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.