|Submitted||April 1, 2020|
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To Whom It May Concern:
Pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request the following records:
Any records relating to the filing of expenses under line item code 10-8110-5027 "Printing and Supplies." These may be items such as manuals, documents, guidance, and training. Please include any database fields that include breakdowns and descriptions of each expense.
If the data is in a database where it's easy to export, I'm happy to discuss formats that are easy for you to collect and disseminate. Text documents, word files, excel files, and comma seperated values (.csv) are all immediately acceptable to me without need for discussion.
The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.
In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 5 business days, as the statute requires.
Please note that I am a citizen of Virginia, and am using MuckRock's services to help manage and track my request.
Hi Mr. Nash,
This office is in receipt of your two requests. I still didn't see your legal address come through - not sure if the system hides addresses so it's not showing up on my end?
Please send over your address, and I'll begin working on your first request.
In regards to your second request for "Emails from the last 5 years that include any of the following queries in the to, from, cc, bcc, body, and subject lines (without the quotations). Include emails that have been deleted, archived, or placed in the trash: 'Merissa Sachs', 'Donna Speaks', 'firstname.lastname@example.org','email@example.com'" my initial search brings up 14,149 emails that may be responsive to this request. I estimate that this will take a minimum of 140 hours of staff time to review, at a cost that will exceed $4,000. I attempt to waive FOIA fees whenever possible and fulfill the majority of the requests that come in to me at no cost, but due to the large nature of this request, it will require extensive staff time. I'm happy to work with you to find a way to narrow this down so that we can reduce the cost of fulfilling this request. Please let me know how you would like to proceed.
Please provide an actual breakdown of cost at hourly rates and fees in accordance with FOIA laws. $4,000 sounds well in excess of what it will take to export emails on a computer to a drive or the cloud (which I am happy to provide.)
The legal address will follow shortly.
Hi Mr. Nash,
As the FOIA officer, I will need to read each of those 14,000+ emails to see if they are responsive to your request and ensure they don't contain any communications that would need to be redacted, i.e. communications regarding personnel, attorney-client privilege, proprietary information, etc.
It's not quite as simple as just pushing export and sending over. My hourly salary is $33.60. I reached the $4,000+ figure by estimating that I could read and review roughly 100 emails an hour, which would be roughly 140 estimated hours. Again, I'm happy to work with you to try to narrow this down or figure out a way to reduce the cost because I do understand that is a large figure.
100 emails per hour seems slower than other requests that have been fulfilled in the past. I understand it's mundane work, but I'd hope you could split up the time to reduce that. Still, the vast majority of emails must be something simple like a one line reply. Not to mention all the spam and junk emails.
As the FOIA officer, I would imagine part of your salary is to fulfill requests like this. Of course it wouldn't make sense if I made a request that required weeks of your time, but I have to ask, is it really necessary to pay someone who makes a massive $70,000 per year salary to perform low level work like this? Someone making half your salary could fulfill this role.
Could you please classify the emails by their content? I.e. X amount are spam, Y amount appear to be legitimate person to person emails, etc.
How many emails return if we narrow the search to those 4 queries from 1/1/2019 until 4/1/2020?
Thank you for your assistance.
Mr. Nash's address is as follows:
Thank you for your help with this request!
Hi Mr. Nash,
Our Finance Department is helping me with your first request, and I will hopefully have that over to you by tomorrow.
In regards to the below, narrowing the search from 1/1/19 to 4/1/20 reduces the potentially responsive documents to 7,414 emails. I did a quick scan of the first couple of pages on our Archiver system, and just based on the subject line and to/from information, only a handful of emails appeared to be spam.
I separated out the request a bit more, and between those specified dates, there are only 218 emails that are from/to/cc the Mockingbird email and/or contain Donna Speaks in the subject/body (without quotes, some may just contain Donna or Speaks and are potentially not responsive, but I'd have to read through to check). Would you like me to proceed with that portion of the request? There would be no charge, and I can provide the responsive emails via a Box link, if that works for you.
For the remaining emails to/from/cc or mentioning Merissa Sachs, there are so many because she is included on the Town Council email thread, in addition to the emails she personally sends or receives, or is mentioned in. If there are specific topics you'd like to search for in regards to those emails, that may help narrow it down a bit more.
FOIA requires annual training, and I am the FOIA-trained staff member for the Town of Christiansburg, which is why I would be the individual compiling the documents responsive to this request.
Thank you for looking further into this request.
I would like to receive the 218 emails you mentioned just as a start, and that will allow me to get a better understanding of the data we're working with to hopefully make life easier for the both of us. If you could knock that out while we iron out the rest, that'd be great.
Regarding the remaining emails, I'm hoping to avoid filtering anything out as it leaves some discretion involved and I'm really looking for anything and everything that would be in the public interest, so it really is in the interest of the public to be able to make those decisions themselves. When it comes to the "Town Council" email thread, wouldn't those emails, and especially those that are in chains with duplicates, need not be reviewed? Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like those would be particularly open to the public and as such could be left out of the very large amount of hours you quoted me for.
Have a great day!
Hi Mr. Nash,
I have started working on the first part of this request and will get those emails to you by Monday, if not later today. I also just reached out to our Finance Department to see where they are on your other request. I'll keep you posted.
The Town Council emails will still need to be reviewed. Personnel items are sometimes sent to that email address, as well as other items that could involve redaction.
Hi Mr. Nash,
I am invoking subsection B 4 of § 2.2-3704 to provide us with seven additional working days to respond to your first request for the filing of expenses under line item code 10-8110-5027 "Printing and Supplies," due to insufficient staff availability. However, our Finance Department does expect to finalize this today, so I will hopefully have it to you soon, though it will likely be past 5 p.m.
Hi Mr. Nash,
Finance finished up sooner than expected. Attached please find the response to your first FOIA request for filing of expenses under line item code 10-8110-5027 "Printing and Supplies."
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Hi Mr. Nash,
Please see the attached response to your FOIA request for correspondence involving firstname.lastname@example.org or containing Donna Speaks in the subject or body. The attached letter has a link to the Box account where the emails have been uploaded.
I received the spreadsheet with expenses filed under the code I requested, thanks for that. However, I do not see records that relate to 'manuals, documents, guidance, and training' as requested initially.
"Any records relating to the filing of expenses under line item code 10-8110-5027 "Printing and Supplies." These may be items such as manuals, documents, guidance, and training. Please include any database fields that include breakdowns and descriptions of each expense."
Are they still working on that part of my request?
Hi Mr. Nash,
There are no documents responsive to that portion of your request.
Just to clarify my request and your response.
Are there no documents (guidance or otherwise) used to train individuals who file expenses? Is it verbal?
How is the standard set? How does one know if an expense is supposed to classified under "10-8110-5027 "Printing and Supplies."
Is it entirely discretion?
What is the paper definition of "Printing and supplies?"
I hope you understand my confusion.
Hi Mr. Nash,
Staff are verbally trained on these items. No such written documents or guidance exists.
All budget classification coded charges are reviewed by supervisory and finance staff before they are paid.
When the market started, this was the only line item to charge expenses to - unless they were merchant service fees or SNAP - as it acts as a miscellaneous line item. We have a relatively small Farmers Market budget of roughly $10,000 any given year, so it has few budget categories. To have a supply, printing and miscellaneous line item for expenses in such a small budget is a generally accepted accounting principle or GAAP. We have since created a new line for contractual services and reclassified the expenses for 2019 and 2020, as you probably saw in the document I sent over.