Counties Coordinate to Block Open Records

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On Monday, we (Treasure State Network – TSN) sent out follow-up Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests trying to break through the organized blocking of their records by almost every Montana County.

To give a little background, on May 6th TSN sent a FOIA request to all counties in Montana asking for a list of all contracts the government entity had with non-government entities over $1,000.  We asked for the identities of the contractors, values, contract purposes, award dates, and whether the contract was bid or no-bid.

Almost every county responded with remarkably similar letters.  The letters informed us that in order to get this simple information we would have to schedule a time to drive to every county office and copy the records available at a price of $.50 for the first page and $.25 for each subsequent page.

The new requests ask the counties to search their miscellaneous index files which should contain all of the contract information and for all correspondence relating to our original FOIA request.

Particularly disturbing was the obvious coordinated blocking and hurdles put up by the counties. I wonder…why would our county governments come together to put up numerous obstacles in order to block this simple request?

Wouldn’t any business and shouldn’t EVERY government have this information readily available…in some of the bigger counties and cities I’m sure there are millions of dollars in contracts??

These requests were the second in a wave; originally the request went to all state agencies and universities.  The response from the state agencies and universities was that of great cooperation and we received almost 3,000 contracts or lists of contracts.  We are currently processing this information and will have it available on our website in the near future.

These requests will help examine how government does business and ensure we are effectively using the tax dollars, which is vital in these tough economic times.  We need to ensure government is clean, open, and transparent.  Transparency is talked about a lot by politicians, but too often it is all talk and no action.

For more information check out our website.

1 Comment

  1. […] has been getting a lot of press from our open records request.  You can read about the requests here in an earlier blog post.  The counties have implemented a coordinated effort to block the public […]

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