when ‘reasonable’ is unreasonable | columns

when 'reasonable' is unreasonable |  columns

The legislature wrote Iowa’s public data regulation 55 years in the past, and one of many regulation’s tenets was the idea that individuals should know the way state and native governments spend their tax cash.

One other essential idea within the regulation is that charges for copies of presidency data are affordable and can’t exceed the precise price of offering paperwork.

This brings us to Kirkwood Neighborhood Faculty in Cedar Rapids at the moment; right here managers appear unable to know what “affordable” actually means.

Right here is the background:

In 2000, the faculty started speaking to New York sculptor Molly Mason, a Cedar Rapids native, about creating a big piece of artwork for the Kirkwood campus. These controversies led to Mason receiving a $80,000 contract in 2008 to design, fabricate and set up a big metallic and glass sculpture within the courtyard of the constructing that homes Kirkwood’s conference heart and lodge.

Mason’s pair of 14-foot stainless-steel buildings are referred to as “Earlier than the Solar Speaks”. Initially, they stood in the course of a pool of water with a sequence of small fountains that lightly sprayed water across the base of the statues.

In the summertime of 2020, a good friend knowledgeable Mason that modifications had been being made to the paintings. The fountains had been closed, the water was drained, and the pool across the statues was stuffed with potted vegetation.

“My stunning sculptures and water options in Kirkwood have changed into an overgrown planter,” Mason wrote to Kirkwood after studying of the modifications. “This deliberate distortion and mutilation of my work damages my honor and popularity.”

Mason sued the college, alleging that Kirkwood infringed the copyright on his sculptures and violated a federal regulation that gave authorized safety to visible artists whose work was made a part of a constructing.

The school tried to get a federal choose to resolve the case in favor of the faculty final summer season, however was unsuccessful. Earlier than a listening to on the deserves of the case was held, Kirkwood and Mason reached an out-of-court settlement to settle the dispute.

The case was closed on December 2.

Underneath Iowa’s public data regulation, settlement agreements that resolve authorized disputes have to be made public upon request. Final week, as a part of my duties as government director of the Iowa Freedom of Data Council, I made a proper request from Kirkwood President Lori Sundberg requesting a duplicate of her engagement settlement with Mason.

Faculty Vice President Jon Neff stated a duplicate of the settlement would price $100.

He stated the price contains one hour of an worker charged at $50 per hour for “knowledge location companies.” In English, this implies it takes an worker making $104,000 an hour a yr to discover a Microsoft Phrase doc that President Sundberg reviewed and permitted solely two months in the past.

The $100 price additionally contains one hour of labor to be paid at $50 per hour for “processing, formatting and knowledge switch” of the settlement doc. In easy English, that is when an worker incomes $104,000 a yr hits the “Print” button on their pc and mails me the doc, or saves the doc as a PDF file and electronic mail it to me.

Merely put, Kirkwood’s prices are outlandish. We not stay in a time when authorities places of work are stuffed with rows of submitting cupboards stuffed with data. Earlier than computer systems and pc searches, a clerk might have to spend an hour or extra rummaging by means of file drawers to discover a doc just like the one I would like. Now, clerical employees in President Sundberg’s workplace can discover the memorandum of settlement with Molly Mason in minutes.

Kirkwood’s response to my request is an instance of what I name “false transparency.” That is the place some authorities officers appear to fortunately adjust to the necessities of the general public data regulation and cost charges so excessive that the plain purpose is to place the price out of attain for Joe the Common Citizen.

I’ve had related compromise offers over time, and I’ve by no means needed to pay greater than a greenback or two for them—if that is about it. For instance, Des Moines Public Colleges supplied such an settlement through electronic mail inside minutes of receiving my request final yr – and without charge to me for processing, formatting, and knowledge switch.

It’s removed from affordable to suppose that an Iowa taxpayer-funded public faculty is justified in asking $100 for a doc that may complete 10 or 12 pages. Kirkwood officers must be ashamed to sullenly recommend that this deal will take an hour to search out and an hour to make a duplicate.

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