City of Asheville Submitted: February 16, 2021 | Updated: July 26, 2023

(February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

Hi City of Asheville, NC Government (APD),

I’d like to make a public records request for the following information:

Please provide all emails related to the Asheville Police Department which were sent to, and sent from, Asheville City Council members from 01/01/2020 - 02/01/2021.

Thank you for your assistance!
-------

[Editor's Note to AVL Gov: We acknowledge that the scope of this request is quite large, and could take a while to fulfill. If possible, please provide some indication of an approximate timeline for completion, and we will wait to follow up again until the time period you specify.

Additionally - we recently mentioned to Liz Harper that from now on when Sunshine Request receives "communications" (emails, texts, etc) type of requests, we will also ask that the City please provides all .pdfs, files, attachments, videos, hyperlinks, etc. that are indicated within the responsive records. For example: A .pdf that is an attachment within an email, should also be provided as a document along with the responsive emails.

Please include all of those additional documents where applicable, as relates to the requested information above.

If the records are ultimately too large to send via emailed file share, we'd ask that you please create a public Google Drive folder / link or some other file format to transfer the files. Thank you for your help!]

Editor’s Note: Sunshine Request makes no claim as to the veracity of any statements or information contained in any of the requests, or public records, we receive.

Status: Government Denied Request

Activity:

  • July 26, 2023 8:45 am

    10 months ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Jul 26, 2023, 8:45 AM
    subject: Your City of Asheville public records request #22-159 has been published.

     

    City of Asheville Public Records

     

    Record request #22-159 has been published and is now available for public view.

     


    Status: Completed
  • July 26, 2023 8:45 am

    10 months ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Jul 26, 2023, 8:45 AM
    subject: Your City of Asheville public records request #22-159 has been closed.

     

    City of Asheville Public Records

     

    Record request #22-159 has been closed. The closure reason supplied was:

     

    We have closed this request after not receiving confirmation that you wish to proceed knowing that the special service charge will apply. Please reply to this message or contact [email protected] if you have any questions.

     


    Status: Completed
  • July 25, 2023 3:26 pm

    10 months ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    date: Jul 25, 2023, 3:26 PM
    subject: Re: [Public Records Request] Re: requests 21-150 & 22-159

     

    Allison,

     

    On behalf of the Sunshine Request team, I will reiterate that we are still interested in receiving the records identified in # 21-150 and # 22-159, and we believe they should be provided without an excess special services fee.

     

    We have previously clarified that we would like to receive the responsive records in their native format, and we do not need these records reviewed, converted, or organized in any manner.

     

    We believe that your refusal to provide the records for minimal cost — “the actual cost of reproducing the public record or public information,” as provided by statute — is a denial of access to public records and is a violation of the public records law.

     

    We request that you provide the responsive records as promptly as possible. I am not aware of any law that supports the continued delay or denial of these valid public records requests, though I acknowledge that we cannot control how you manage your public records portal.

     

    Patrick Conant
    Director of Sunshine Request


    Status: Follow up
  • July 25, 2023 12:42 pm

    10 months ago

    from: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: Jul 25, 2023, 12:42 PM
    subject: Re: [Public Records Request] Re: requests 21-150 & 22-159

     

    Good afternoon, Patrick,

     

    The City’s Public Records Policy details the special service charge on page five, including the statute that allows us to charge this fee. Requests 21-150 and 22-159 have been held in our queue for over a year as a courtesy; in order for processing of these requests to resume, we would need Sunshine Request to acknowledge their wish to proceed knowing the special service charge applies. As mentioned in my prior email, these requests will be closed if I do not hear back by the end of the business day (5:00 PM) today, July 25th, that Sunshine Request wishes to proceed.

     

    Best,

     

    Allison Byers
    Public Records Officer

    City of Asheville

     

    **Editor’s Note: The link Allison referenced, is a City’s of AVL Google Drive link, found here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1neDIHnOmPyg9San0RLMYMurtHqVKQs7X/view?pli=1

     

    Additionally. We have downloaded the attached policy document she sent with the email as well.

     

    Please see the 1 file referenced (“City-of-Asheville-Public-Records-Policy.pdf”) at top left in our Documents section.


    Status: Response Received from Government
  • July 24, 2023 5:44 pm

    10 months ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    date: Jul 24, 2023, 5:44 PM
    subject: Re: requests 21-150 & 22-159

     

    Dear Allison,

     

    On behalf of the Sunshine Request team, I am confirming that we received your email regarding our public records requests # 21-150 and # 22-159.

     

    We are not familiar with any law that supports your statement, “Requests cannot remain on hold indefinitely.” Even more fundamentally, however, we continue to believe that the City’s attempt to collect special service fees in order to fulfill our requests is improper.

     

    We believe that your refusal to provide the records for minimal cost — “the actual cost of reproducing the public record or public information,” as provided by statute — is a denial of access to public records and is a violation of the public records law. Of course we cannot control how you manage your portal, but to be clear, we have requested the records identified in 21-150 and 22-159 and believe they should be provided without an excess special services fee.

     

    Patrick Conant
    Director of Sunshine Request


    Status: Follow up
  • July 18, 2023 2:33 pm

    10 months ago

    from: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: Jul 18, 2023, 2:33 PM
    subject: requests 21-150 & 22-159

     

    Good afternoon, Sunshine Request,

     

    I am reaching out about the following public records requests:

     

    21-150: “Please provide all emails, Teams messages, and Skype messages containing the word “Ramada” and “Ramada Inn”, sent between any employee of the City of Asheville from 01/01/2019 to Present Day (date the query is performed).”

     

    22-159: “Please provide all emails related to the Asheville Police Department which were sent to, and sent from, Asheville City Council members from 01/01/2020-02/02/2021.”

     

    You were notified in April 2022 that these requests are both subject to special service charges, for which you were provided estimates via email. Subsequently, per your request, the requests were placed on hold on May 10, 2022. Since that date, you have given no indication that you would be willing to pay the special service charge for either request. Requests cannot remain on hold indefinitely. Please let me know by Tuesday, July 25, 2023, whether you would like to proceed with these requests knowing that they are subject to special service charges. If I do not hear back from you by the end of the business day (5:00 PM) on the 25th, the requests will be closed.

     

    Thank you,

    Allison Byers
    Public Records Officer
    City of Asheville


    Status: Response Received from Government
  • May 10, 2022 9:06 am

    2 years ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: May 10, 2022, 9:06 AM
    subject: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Good morning, Patrick & Sunshine Request,

     

    This request will remain open for the time being, however please note that processing will be put on hold. If you have any questions, you may either reply to this message or contact [email protected]. Thank you.


    Status: Response Received from Government
  • May 9, 2022 4:15 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Patrick Conant <[email protected]>
    to: City of Asheville Public Records Request <[email protected]>, Brad Branham <[email protected]>, Debra Campbell <[email protected]>, councilgroup <[email protected]>, [email protected], [email protected], Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: May 9, 2022, 4:15 PM
    subject: Response to “Special Service Charge” for Requests #22-159 and #21-150

     

    City of Asheville Public Records, Brad, Debra, and Asheville City Council,

     

    The City’s Public Records Officer has recently provided the Sunshine Request team with a 5pm deadline to approve “Special Service Charge” fees on two public records requests, #22-159, and #21-150. The City’s Public Records officer has indicated that, if we fail to respond by the 5pm deadline, these requests will be marked as “closed.”

     

    After consulting with experts on NC Public Records Law, the Sunshine Request team has determined that the special service charge fees levied on these requests are both unfair and unreasonable.

     

    As specified under NCGS 132-6.2(b), we intend to engage the State Chief Information Officer or his designee to mediate our dispute with the City.

     

    NCGS 132-6.2(b)

    If anyone requesting public information from any public agency is charged a fee that the requester believes to be unfair or unreasonable, the requester may ask the State Chief Information Officer or his designee to mediate the dispute.

     

    We formally request that the City of Asheville keep these requests open for the duration of this process.

     

    The full communication history of these requests can be seen here:

     

    https://www.sunshinerequest.com/records_request/february-2021-request-for-all-emails-to-from-asheville-nc-city-council-about-asheville-police-department-from-01-01-2020-02-01-2021/


    https://www.sunshinerequest.com/records_request/october-2021-request-for-city-of-asheville-nc-government-all-employee-emails-and-messages-related-to-ramada-and-ramada-inn-01-01-2019-present/

     

    Patrick Conant

    Director of Sunshine Request


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • May 9, 2022 11:36 am

    2 years ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: May 9, 2022, 11:36 AM
    subject: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Sunshine Request,

     

    I am reaching out one last time regarding this request. Please let me know if you would like to proceed with this request knowing that it is subject to the special service charge. An estimate was provided to you on May 2, 2022. If I do not hear from you by the end of the business day today (5:00 PM), this request will be closed.


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • May 5, 2022 5:10 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    cc: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    date: May 5, 2022, 5:10 PM
    subject: Re: [Public Records Request] Re: request #22-159

     

    Sunshine Request,

     

    When a public records request triggers the special service charge, the service charge applies to the entire amount of time it takes to fulfill the request. As an example, a request that takes four hours and thirty minutes (4.5 hours) to complete will be charged for four hours and thirty minutes (4.5 hours).

     

    “Pursuant to NCGS 132-6.2(b), a special service charge can be applied “if the request is such as to require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency involved, or if producing the record in the medium requested results in a greater use of information technology resources than that established by the agency for reproduction of the volume of information requested …” The special service charge “shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency” (NCGS 132-6.2(b)).” City of Asheville (2021). Public Records Policy.

     

    “A special service charge may be triggered when the above requirements have been met and are reasonably estimated to require more than (four) 4 hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff.” City of Asheville (2021). Public Records Policy.

     

    The process for pulling emails for public records requests is tedious and time-consuming, especially when it’s being performed on a large number of emails or email accounts. Emails are pulled from Google Vault, exported to zip files (by person/email account, so if the request asks for emails of all City staff, there are separate zip files for every employee that has any potentially related email). The zip files then have to be unzipped, individually, and imported to Outlook – also individually. In Outlook, emails are checked to make sure they are responsive to the request and attachments are extracted. Attachments have to be extracted one by one, so every email must be reviewed to see if there is an attachment or document linked within the email. After Outlook, each email account file is individually exported to a PST viewer where it can then be downloaded to a PDF. The PDFs are downloaded to a folder on the computer, and then they are moved to Google Drive.

     

    I want to reiterate that the estimates provided for special service charges are highly variable. The actual amount of time it takes to complete a request may be significantly more than what was initially estimated. The PRO/City staff will use best efforts to keep you to date if it appears that the service charge will vary greatly from the estimate that was provided.

     

    Allison Byers

    Public Records Officer


    Status: Clarification Provided
  • May 5, 2022 4:01 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    cc: Brad Branham <[email protected]>,
    [email protected]
    date: May 5, 2022, 4:01 PM
    subject: Re: request #22-159

     

    City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    Our team has reviewed your estimate for the time required to complete this request. We would like to request additional information regarding how these estimates are calculated.

     

    First, we understand that the City has chosen to request a “special service charge” for requests that are expected to take greater than 4 hours. Can you clarify if that means the first 4 hours of time are expended without charge, or are those hours included in the cost estimate for any request that exceeds the 4 hour threshold? To put it another way, would a request that requires 4:01 have charges for the full 4:01, or just for the 1 minute of time in excess of 4 hours?

     

    Second, for this specific request, we understand that this request covers exactly 47,516 emails, and you have estimated that it will take approximately 9.5 hours to complete the request.

     

    Can you please provide a full description of the formula utilized to determine this cost estimate? We would like to understand if these cost estimates are determined based solely on the volume of emails requests or if other factors are considered as well.

     

    Furthermore, we understand that the process of fulfilling a request has multiple steps, and we are trying to better understand how much time is required for each. Could you please provide a more detailed breakdown of the cost estimate?

     

    The Sunshine Request team remains deeply concerned by the City’s decision to create significant financial barriers to public records. We greatly appreciate any information you can provide to help our understanding of the City’s process.


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • May 2, 2022 2:36 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: May 2, 2022, 2:36 PM
    subject: request #22-159

     

    Sunshine Request,

     

    This email is regarding your request for “all emails related to the Asheville Police Department which were sent to, and sent from, Asheville City Council members from 01/01/2020-02/01/2021”. (#22-159)

     

    As mentioned in my email dated April 12, 2022, the initial search conducted for this request yielded over 47,000 results (47,516). Given the extensive clerical or supervisory assistance this request will require, and that it is reasonably estimated to require more than four (4) hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff, it is subject to the special service charge.

     

    “Pursuant to NCGS 132-6.2(b), a special service charge can be applied “if the request is such as to require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency involved, or if producing the record in the medium requested results in a greater use of information technology resources than that established by the agency for reproduction of the volume of information requested …” The special service charge “shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency” (NCGS 132-6.2(b)). This fee will not apply for any time required to identify and redact confidential information or for other legal review.” City of Asheville (2021). Public Records Policy.

     

    The special service charge is $18.00/hour, and it is reasonably estimated that this request will take approximately 9.5 hours to complete. Therefore, the estimated special service charge for this request is $171.00. Please note that this is an estimate; the final charge will be determined based on actual processing time (not including reviewing for confidential information or legal review). Please be advised: Service charge estimates are highly variable. The PRO/City staff will use best efforts to keep you up to date if it appears that the service charge will vary greatly from the estimate provided.

     

    Should you choose to continue with this request, the special service charge must be paid at City Hall by cash, check, or money order before any responsive records will be released.

     

    Please let me know by May 9, 2022, if you would like to proceed with this request. If I do not hear from you by that date, I will assume that you do not wish to incur the special service charge and the request will be closed.

     

    Sincerely,

    Allison Byers

    Public Records Officer
    Attachments area


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 27, 2022 5:26 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    to: Patrick Conant <[email protected]>
    cc: City of Asheville Public Records Request <[email protected]>,
    Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 27, 2022, 5:26 PM
    subject: Re: “Special Service Charge” for Public Records Requests

     

    Thank you for clarifying, Patrick,

     

    The provision you cite deals directly with facilitating inspection, examination, or copying of a public record or records. In these cases, when confidential information must be separated in order to allow the inspection or examination to take place, the City would not be permitted to charge a fee for that portion of the preparation. This, however, is not the applicable statute for determining fees for the general provision of public records. That allowance is found in the original statute you cited, 132-6.2.
    Section (b) of that law lays out the requirements for assessing a fee. Specifically, the following:

     

    Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, if the request is such as to require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency involved, or if producing the record in the medium requested results in a greater use of information technology resources than that established by the agency for reproduction of the volume of information requested, then the agency may charge, in addition to the actual cost of duplication, a special service charge, which shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency.

     

    Our fees are limited, as permitted by the statute, to those times when producing the record requires extensive IT resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance.


    Status: Clarification Provided
  • April 27, 2022 5:07 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Patrick Conant <[email protected]>
    to: Brad Branham <[email protected]>,
    City of Asheville Public Records Request <[email protected]>,
    Sunshine Request <[email protected]>,
    councilgroup <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 27, 2022, 5:07 PM
    subject: Re: “Special Service Charge” for Public Records Requests

     

    Brad,

     

    Thank you for pointing out my mistake in the original email.

     

    When I referenced NCGS 132-6.2 in my previous message, I should have referenced NCGS 132-6(c):

     

    (c) No request to inspect, examine, or obtain copies of public records shall be denied on the grounds that confidential information is commingled with the requested nonconfidential information. If it is necessary to separate confidential from nonconfidential information in order to permit the inspection, examination, or copying of the public records, the public agency shall bear the cost of such separation.

     

    https://www.ncleg.net/enactedlegislation/statutes/html/bychapter/chapter_132.html

     

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

     

    Patrick Conant


    Status: Clarification Provided
  • April 27, 2022 4:47 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    to: Patrick Conant <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 27, 2022, 4:47 PM
    subject: Re: “Special Service Charge” for Public Records Requests

     

    Patrick,

     

    Please point me to the specific provision you reference in 132-6.2.

     

    I have included a link for your reference: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.ncleg.gov/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_132/GS_132-6.2.pdf

     

    Thank you,

    Brad R. Branham

    City Attorney

    City of Asheville

    P.O. Box 7148

    Asheville, NC 28802

    828-259-5614


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 27, 2022 4:04 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Patrick Conant <[email protected]> to: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    cc: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>,
    City of Asheville Public Records Request <[email protected]>,
    councilgroup <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 27, 2022, 4:04 PM
    subject: “Special Service Charge” for Public Records Requests

     

    Brad,

     

    The Sunshine Request team recently brought to my attention the City’s recent attempts to request a “Special Service Charge” for public records requests submitted through our platform, as well as their communications with you regarding this change in process.

     

    First, I want to point out that this change in process was not proactively communicated by City Staff. It’s poor practice, in my opinion, for the City to quietly enact a significant change to fulfillment of public records requests without holding any conversations with relevant stakeholders or providing any notification to the public.

     

    Did City Staff discuss this change in process with our Council members – and if so, are our Council members in support of this change? This unilateral change in process undercuts the City’s efforts to operate with transparency and creates a troubling financial barrier to access public records.

     

    I do have some specific questions regarding one portion of your recent message to the Sunshine Request team regarding their February 2021 request:

     

    “We are absolutely not permitted to simply produce all records that are assembled as a result of a record query. Every single record must be individually reviewed to determine if it is responsive, if it contains confidential or otherwise non-producable information, and whether additional links or attachments need to be included. This process, generally speaking, allows us to review about 1000 records per hour per person. It goes without saying that a review of more than 50,000 records will take more than four hours to complete this process. It is only after this has been done that any necessary legal review takes place, which is not included in the time calculation for fee assessment.”

     

    While I do appreciate the additional details regarding the City’s process, I believe this description clearly indicates the City process is out of compliance with NCGS 132-6.2.

     

    If the City needs to review every single record to determine if each record contains “confidential or otherwise non-producable information,” that is a cost that the City is required to bear. I believe NCGS 132-6.2 is crystal clear on this point:

     

    “If it is necessary to separate confidential from nonconfidential information in order to permit the inspection, examination, or copying of the public records, the public agency shall bear the cost of such separation.”

     

    The February 2021 public records request in question asked that the City perform a simple email query and export the records. There is no portion of the request that requires the City perform an individual review of every record.

     

    The records which match the entered search query should be deemed responsive to the request, and it is clearly understood by both City Staff and the Sunshine Request team that records requests for emails are fulfilled in this manner. It is completely unnecessary for City Staff to review each record individually to determine if they are responsive.

     

    Regarding attachments – I would assume that the tool which allows for the query and export of emails also allows the export of all attachments on the matching set of emails. Again, this should not require the individual review of each record. However, if that is not the case, we would be happy to narrow the scope of certain requests by removing the additional requirement of including attachments.

     

    That only leaves one reason for the individual review of each record – the City’s need to identify confidential or other non-public information. If the City commingles confidential and otherwise non-producible information with their public records, that is an internal issue that the City should address. It is not reasonable to pass the costs of the City’s inefficiency on to any member of the public that requests these public records.

     

    The description you have provided clearly indicates that the City is attempting to charge members of the public significant fees for costs that NCGS 132-6.2 clearly states the City should bear. On behalf of the Sunshine Request team, I will state unequivocally that we find this practice to be alarming and entirely unacceptable.

     

    Based on my above points, can you please clarify if you intend to revise the City’s position or policy regarding the calculation of “Special Service charge” fees for public records requests for emails?

     

    Parick Conant
    Director of Sunshine Request


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 27, 2022 8:56 am

    2 years ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Apr 27, 2022, 8:56 AM
    subject: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Sunshine Request,

     

    As stated in my email dated April 12, 2022, given the extensive clerical or supervisory assistance this request will require, and that it is reasonably estimated to require more than four (4) hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff, it is subject to the special service charge.

     

    Please let me know if you would like to proceed with this request. I look forward to hearing from you by May 4, 2022.


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 21, 2022 9:23 am

    2 years ago

    from: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    cc: Open Gov <[email protected]>,
    Allison Byers <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 21, 2022, 9:23 AM
    subject: Re: request #22-159

     

    Good morning, Lauren,

     

    First, I apologize for the confusion regarding the recipient of this email address. I will certainly try to avoid that mistake in the future. As to your request, I would like to provide some additional information for clarification. First, although the request was placed in our queue for response, we can find no previous work having been done on it. Given the turnover in the position of Public Records Officer, we are unable to determine why this request was temporarily misplaced. However, it seems clear that no work had yet been completed. Second, it is correct to say that the City’s technology allows for certain records to be assembled fairly quickly. However, that is merely the start of the process. It is true that a legal review is not included in the consideration of whether a fee is applicable or not. However, a fee may be assessed based upon the need for extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by City personnel. We are absolutely not permitted to simply produce all records that are assembled as a result of a record query. Every single record must be individually reviewed to determine if it is responsive, if it contains confidential or otherwise non-producable information, and whether additional links or attachments need to be included. This process, generally speaking, allows us to review about 1000 records per hour per person. It goes without saying that a review of more than 50,000 records will take more than four hours to complete this process. It is only after this has been done that any necessary legal review takes place, which is not included in the time calculation for fee assessment.

     

    Based upon these considerations, the City will continue to assess the fee on the subject request, and any others which meet the legal qualifications prior fulfilling those requests. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

     

    Sincerely,

    Brad R. Branham

    City Attorney

    City of Asheville

    P.O. Box 7148

    Asheville, NC 28802

    828-259-5614


    Status: Clarification Provided
  • April 20, 2022 5:34 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    cc: Open Gov <[email protected]>, Debra Campbell <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 20, 2022, 5:34 PM
    subject: Re: request #22-159

     

    Hi Brad,

     

    I appreciate your response.

     

    My name is Lauren, not Patrick. Sunshine Request is run by a small team of several individuals. Although Patrick is the Director of Sunshine Request, any emails or records requests the City receives from the email address [email protected] may be sent to you by any of the members of our team. Unless we specify otherwise, please assume any messages from this address are not from Patrick.

     

    If Patrick sends emails on his own behalf, he will typically use his personal email address ([email protected]) and will sign his name. 

     

    That said – our Sunshine team does communicate about the requests on our website, and we have all discussed the status of our February 2021 request which is now in question:

     

    We understand there is a section of NC Public Records Law which allows you to charge “reasonable” fees under certain circumstances. Furthermore, we are familiar with the City’s Public Records Policy, which now states: 

     

    “… A special service charge may be triggered when the above requirements have been met and are reasonably estimated to require more than (four) 4 hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff. The PRO supervisor will approve or reject the special service charge. The requester will then be made aware of the charge before the city proceeds with the request.

     

    We disagree with the City’s attempt to require a special service charge for fulfillment of our February 2021 request, for two reasons: 

     

    First – The City has confirmed, on numerous occasions, that City Staff were proceeding with this request. Furthermore, City Staff acknowledged on 03/31/22 that they were unable to locate the original request (and presumably, any staff work produced during the previous attempt to fulfill this request). As a result of this unique situation, the City provided assurances that this request would be “expedited” and that we would be forwarded all responsive records. 

     

    The City’s policy indicates that “the requester will then be made aware of the charge before the city proceeds with the request.” 

     

    In the fourteen months since this request was submitted, City Staff have provided assurances that they were proceeding with this request on several occasions. We respectfully request that City Staff follow the letter of the Public Records policy and complete the fulfillment of this request, since the requester (Sunshine Request) was never notified of any potential charges before the City proceeded with the request.

     

    Second – We do not agree with your assessment that this request will likely require a Special Service Charge of “several hundred dollars.” We find it difficult to believe that it would take dozens of staff hours to perform this simple email query and export the required records.

     

    In a recent court case, Dunham v. Whitaker, 20 CVS 6454, the Town of Summerfield hired an external IT consultant to perform two different queries, which resulted in 13,000 responsive emails. This consultant testified that it took approximately 2-3 hours to identify and download the relevant records in PST format: http://cdn1.creativecirclemedia.com/ncpress/files/20220331-140008-FS%20Order%20Dunham%20v%20Whitaker.pdf

     

    We believe that the City’s cloud-based email infrastructure likely provides a mechanism to query and download responsive records with an equal or greater level of efficiency. It seems reasonable to assume that the City should be able to fulfill most requests that require only a simple query, without triggering a special service charge. 

     

    Our February 2021 request does not require City Staff to assemble or sort the email records in any manner. If such a step is required as part of your legal review process, it is not appropriate to include that time in the estimation of a special service charge.

     

    Can you please clarify why City Staff feel that it would take such a significant amount of time to perform a simple email query and download the responsive records? 

     

    Thank you.

     

    ~ Lauren (and the rest of Sunshine Request Team)


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 19, 2022 4:54 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Apr 19, 2022, 4:54 PM
    subject: Re: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    There have been several emails between our team and Brad since your last message that you’re referring to on 4/12. We are currently in the process of reviewing the most recent email we received from Brad on 4/13 and will be in touch soon.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Clarification Provided
  • April 19, 2022 4:17 pm

    2 years ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Apr 19, 2022, 4:17 PM
    subject: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Sunshine Request,

     

    I am writing to follow up on our most recent email communication regarding this request. As stated in the email dated April 12, 2022: “Given the extensive clerical or supervisory assistance this request will require, and that it is reasonably estimated to require more than four (4) hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff, it is subject to the special service charge.” Would you like to proceed with this request?


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 13, 2022 3:29 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    cc: Open Gov <[email protected]>,
    Debra Campbell <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 13, 2022, 3:29 PM

     

    Good afternoon, Patrick,

     

    I’m sorry to hear about your frustration, but the City is permitted to assess a fee for the production of public records under certain circumstances. In this particular case, it appears that nearly 50,000 records will need to be assembled and sorted by City staff prior to any legal review. As requests for public records have become increasingly more voluminous and technology dependent, the City adopted an updated public records policy in order to incorporate the provisions of State law which establish the authority to assess fees. I have reviewed the relevant request with Allison, and have determined that the fee will likely apply. In fact, given the parameters of the request, the fee will likely be several hundred dollars.

     

    As always, public records will be produced as quickly as possible. However, if requestors are willing to reduce the scope of their requests, we will always attempt to assist them with avoiding the fee. This will also help us respond to the remainder of requests more quickly, which is our primary goal. For more information, please see the City’s Public Records policy posted on the City’s website.

     

    Sincerely,

     


    Brad R. Branham

    City Attorney

    City of Asheville

    P.O. Box 7148

    Asheville, NC 28802

    828-259-5614


    Status: Response Received from Government
  • April 13, 2022 3:05 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    cc: Brad Branham <[email protected]>,
    Debra Campbell <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 13, 2022, 3:05 PM
    subject: Re: request #22-159

     

    Good Afternoon OpenGov (Brad and Debra Cced),

     

    Your email above about fees, comes in response to my most recent follow up sent on 04/04/22 regarding records request # 22-159: “(February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021”

     

    That request was originally submitted via email to the City ([email protected]) on February 17, 2021. It was also confirmed by Liz Harper that same day when she said that the request was “number 13 on the queue” [email queue] at that time. That was over a year, and several records request officers / interim officers, ago.

     

    On July 09, 2021 Liz said: “This request is still in the queue and will take many months to process due to the voluminous nature of the request.”

     

    I have been following up with the City about this since October 29, 2021 and received no response.

     

    On March 31, 2022 @ 1:13pm we received this update from [email protected]: “Your record request #22-159 has been submitted. It is currently under review and is not available for the general public to view.” Presumably – this was just meant to indicate that the request has been entered into the new Next Request system (since the City was not using Next Request to fulfill our requests back in Feb. 2021).

     

    On March 31, 2022 @ 1:19pm we received another update from [email protected]: “Unfortunately we were unable to locate your original request for these emails. Due to the amount of time since that request was made, this request will be expedited. We will forward you any responsive records. We appreciate your patience and understanding.”

     

    On April 04, 2022 we let them know that: “If it’s useful and you’d like to see all communications related to this request, our entire correspondence with the City is posted on our website at the following URL: https://www.sunshinerequest.com/records_request/february-2021-request-for-all-emails-to-from-asheville-nc-city-council-about-asheville-police-department-from-01-01-2020-02-01-2021/

     

    As you may know, our team posts all results and correspondences about a records request in its entirety, on our website. Therefore, you can clearly see that this request was being processed by the City since February 17, 2021.

     

    On April 12, 2022 we received the new email above (“request #22-159”) from OpenGov notifying us that our request:

     

    “… will take “extensive clerical or supervisory assistance” and that “it is reasonably estimated to require more than four (4) hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff, it is subject to the special service charge.”

     

    [the] “… special service charge “shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency” (NCGS 132-6.2(b)). This fee will not apply for any time required to identify and redact confidential information or for other legal review.” City of Asheville (2021). Public Records Policy.”

     

    “… The special service charge is $18.00/hour. You will receive a written estimate for the overall charge of this request. Please let us know if you would like to narrow the scope of your request; doing so may reduce or avoid the service charge.”

     

    For one – I find it hard to imagine it would take IT staff more than 4 hours to query the specific information requested. But, more concerning is that this request is 14 months old and is now being treated as though it is a brand new request which has not yet begun processing… and we’re hearing now that we may be charged a fee?

     

    Given that your office was in fact processing the request over the past year and confirmed as much, it is unacceptable to notify us at what should now be the end of that process, that there may be potential fees incurred. At no point were we ever notified of any potential fees, and, it was also confirmed by the City over the many months we’ve been following up that the request was in fact being processed by your various records officers.

     

    Under NC Public Records Law, if there had been any policies or practices like this in effect by the City in February 2021, then that potential cost info should have been estimated, itemized, and noticed to us for review when Liz confirmed the request was # 13 in the queue.

     

    Since we’ve already followed up numerous times and your own office has given status updates confirming the request was being processed and now is apparently being “expedited” as of March 2022 – it is unclear why the City has decided over a year from the submission date that they may charge fees. Regardless of whether or not your office “mislocated” the request at some point along the way, it was confirmed to us as being in process over a year ago, and it should continue as such without fee.

     

    We do not approve or intend to pay any fees related to this request, and would greatly appreciate a response from Brad to clarify when you anticipate that you will proceed to process and fulfill the February 2021 request.

     

    We have spent uncounted hours on our team’s end (as well as what I’m sure has likely been spent already on the City’s side) related to the fulfillment and follow up on this request.

     

    I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

     

    ~ Sunshine Request Team


    Status: Clarification Requested
  • April 12, 2022 2:13 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Open Gov <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 12, 2022, 2:13 PM
    subject: request #22-159

     

    Dear Sunshine Request,

     

    We are reaching out to you regarding your request for “…all emails related to the Asheville Police Department which were sent to, and sent from, Asheville City Council members from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021” (#22-159).

     

    Given the extensive clerical or supervisory assistance this request will require, and that it is reasonably estimated to require more than four (4) hours of compilation time by the PRO or staff, it is subject to the special service charge.

     

    “Pursuant to NCGS 132-6.2(b), a special service charge can be applied “if the request is such as to require extensive use of information technology resources or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance by personnel of the agency involved, or if producing the record in the medium requested results in a greater use of information technology resources than that established by the agency for reproduction of the volume of information requested …” The special service charge “shall be reasonable and shall be based on the actual cost incurred for such extensive use of information technology resources or the labor costs of the personnel providing the services, or for a greater use of information technology resources that is actually incurred by the agency or attributable to the agency” (NCGS 132-6.2(b)). This fee will not apply for any time required to identify and redact confidential information or for other legal review.” City of Asheville (2021). Public Records Policy.

     

    The special service charge is $18.00/hour. You will receive a written estimate for the overall charge of this request. Please let us know if you would like to narrow the scope of your request; doing so may reduce or avoid the service charge.

     

    Should you wish to continue with this request, please note you will be required to pay the service charge at City Hall by check, cash, or money order prior to the release of any responsive records.

     

    Sincerely,
    Asheville OpenGov

     

    **Editor’s Note: Please see referenced file “Copy of City of Asheville Public Records Policy” at top left in documents


    Status: Response Received from Government
  • April 4, 2022 1:02 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected],
    Debra Campbell <[email protected]>,
    Brad Branham <[email protected]>
    date: Apr 4, 2022, 1:02 PM
    subject: Re: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records (Brad + Debra CC’d),

     

    Thank you for your reply!

     

    If it’s useful and you’d like to see all communications related to this request, our entire correspondence with the City is posted on our website at the following URL: https://www.sunshinerequest.com/records_request/february-2021-request-for-all-emails-to-from-asheville-nc-city-council-about-asheville-police-department-from-01-01-2020-02-01-2021/

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • March 31, 2022 1:19 pm

    2 years ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Mar 31, 2022, 1:19 PM
    subject: [External Message Added] City of Asheville public records request #22-159

     

    Dear Sunshine Request,

     

    Unfortunately we were unable to locate your original request for these emails. Due to the amount of time since that request was made, this request will be expedited. We will forward you any responsive records. We appreciate your patience and understanding.


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • March 31, 2022 1:13 pm

    2 years ago

    from: City of Asheville Public Records <[email protected]>
    to: [email protected]
    date: Mar 31, 2022, 1:13 PM
    subject: Your City of Asheville public records request #22-159 has been opened.

     

    Your record request #22-159 has been submitted. It is currently under review and is not available for the general public to view.


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • March 30, 2022 1:39 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Public Records Request Inbox <[email protected]>
    cc: Brad Branham <[email protected]>,
    Debra Campbell <[email protected]>
    date: Mar 30, 2022, 1:39 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records (Brad and Debra CC’d),

     

    I’m checking in for a 6th time on this request from 2/17/21 to see if there’s an update to report: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    The last update we received was on July 9th of last year that said “This request is still in the queue and will take many months to process due to the voluminous nature of the request.”

     

    This request is now over a year old we’re looking for an estimated timeline for completion, as well as an explanation of why it’s taking so long to fulfill? Additionally, we cannot find this request on the City’s email queue document.

     

    I will plan on following up again in mid-April if I haven’t heard back by then.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Follow up
  • March 4, 2022 12:54 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Public Records Request Inbox <[email protected]>
    date: Mar 4, 2022, 12:54 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    I am checking in for a 5th time on this request from 2/17/21 to see if there’s an update to report: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    The last update we received was on July 9th of last year that said “This request is still in the queue and will take many months to process due to the voluminous nature of the request.” Can you please give us a status update / estimated timeline for completion so we can indicate some resolution for the sender?

     

    I will plan on following up again at the end of the month if I haven’t heard back by then.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Follow up
  • February 3, 2022 12:11 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Public Records Request Inbox <[email protected]>
    date: Feb 3, 2022, 12:11 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021″

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    I am checking in again on this request from 2/17/21 to see if there’s an update to report: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    The last update we received was on July 9th of last year that said “This request is still in the queue and will take many months to process due to the voluminous nature of the request.” Can you please give us a status update / estimated timeline for completion so we can indicate some resolution for the sender?

     

    I will plan on following up again at the end of the month if I haven’t heard back by then.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Follow up
  • January 14, 2022 4:20 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Public Records Request Inbox <[email protected]>
    date: Jan 14, 2022, 4:20 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    I am checking in again on this request from 2/17/21 to see if there’s an update to report: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    The last update we received on this request was from Liz Harper back in July. I will plan on following up again at the end of the month if I don’t hear back before then.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Follow up
  • December 3, 2021 3:43 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Public Records Request Inbox <[email protected]>
    date: Dec 3, 2021, 3:43 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    I am checking in again on this request from 2/17 to see if there’s an update to report: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    I will plan on following up again in early January if I don’t hear back before then.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Follow up
  • October 29, 2021 3:39 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Public Records Request Inbox <[email protected]>
    date: Oct 29, 2021, 3:39 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon City of Asheville Public Records,

     

    I am checking in on this request from 2/17 to see if there’s an update to report: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    I will plan on following up again in late November if I don’t hear back before then.

     

    Have a good weekend!

     


    Status: Follow up
  • August 10, 2021 1:00 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Liz Harper <[email protected]>
    date: Aug 10, 2021, 1:00 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon Liz,

     

    Thank you! I will plan on following up again on this request in October if I don’t hear anything before then.

     

    Have a good day.


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • July 9, 2021 8:12 am

    2 years ago

    from: Liz Harper <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: Jul 9, 2021, 8:12 AM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good morning Sunshine Request,

    This request is still in the queue and will take many months to process due to the voluminous nature of the request.

     

    Thank you,

    Liz Harper (she/her)
    Public Records Officer, City of Asheville
    (828) 259-5631 [email protected]


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • July 7, 2021 4:31 pm

    2 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Liz Harper <[email protected]>
    date: Jul 7, 2021, 4:31 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon Liz,

     

    Checking in on this request to see if there’s any update to report? I will plan on following up again at the end of the month if I don’t hear back before then.

     

    Thank you!


    Status: Follow up
  • March 4, 2021 4:04 pm

    3 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Liz Harper <[email protected]>
    date: Mar 4, 2021, 4:04 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon Liz,

     

    Thank you for your reply. We acknowledge that this request is quite voluminous, but we do not have any additional clarification to provide. If you are able to fulfill the request, we’d ask that you please proceed with the request as is. We will note for users on our site that the request is very large and will take many months to fulfill. From a scheduling perspective, we will plan to reach out to your office to follow up again in 3 months (early June 2021) for a status update if we have not heard back before then.

     

    We appreciate your assistance!


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • February 17, 2021 3:16 pm

    3 years ago

    from: Liz Harper <[email protected]>
    to: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    date: Feb 17, 2021, 3:16 PM
    subject: Re: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon Sunshine Request,
    I did a preliminary search for the past 13 months of emails to and from city council related to the Asheville Police Department. Using the term “APD” resulted in 51,457 responsive emails and “Asheville Police” resulted in 43,293 emails. These results are first reviewed by myself to identify responsive emails, then are individually inspected during legal review, so I expect it would take many, many months to complete this request. Note that because it was not specified, these numbers include all emails from constituents and the public, not just those between city staff and council members. This request is number 13 on the queue. The requestor is welcome to revise and clarify this request to expedite the request process.
    Best,

     

    Liz Harper (she/her)
    Public Records Officer, City of Asheville
    (828) 259-5631 [email protected]


    Status: Government Processing Request
  • February 17, 2021 12:51 pm

    3 years ago

    from: Sunshine Request <[email protected]>
    to: Liz Harper <[email protected]>
    date: Feb 17, 2021, 12:51 PM
    subject: Records Request: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Good afternoon Asheville City Government,

     

    I’d like to make a public records request for information that may be available in your office.

     

    Please confirm receipt to let me know the request will begin processing, and if possible, please provide a rough estimate of when the request may be completed. I will plan on following up again later this month if I have not heard back before then.

     

    Here are the details of the request:

     

    Subject: (February 2021) Request for all emails to/from Asheville, NC City Council about Asheville Police Department from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021

     

    Message: “Hi City of Asheville, NC Government (APD),

     

    I’d like to make a public records request for the following information:

     

    Please provide all emails related to the Asheville Police Department which were sent to, and sent from, Asheville City Council members from 01/01/2020 – 02/01/2021.

     

    Thank you for your assistance!
    ——-

     

    [Editor’s Note to AVL Gov: We acknowledge that the scope of this request is quite large, and could take a while to fulfill. If possible, please provide some indication of an approximate timeline for completion, and we will wait to follow up again until the time period you specify.

     

    Additionally – we recently mentioned to Liz Harper that from now on when Sunshine Request receives “communications” (emails, texts, etc) type of requests, we will also ask that the City please provides all .pdfs, files, attachments, videos, hyperlinks, etc. that are indicated within the responsive records. For example: A .pdf that is an attachment within an email, should also be provided as a document along with the responsive emails.

     

    Please include all of those additional documents where applicable, as relates to the requested information above.

     

    If the records are ultimately too large to send via emailed file share, we’d ask that you please create a public Google Drive folder / link or some other file format to transfer the files. Thank you for your help!]“

     

    ** Sunshine Request makes no claim as to the veracity of any statements or information contained in any of the requests, or public records, we receive.

     

    Thank you for your help!


    Status: Sent to Government
  • February 16, 2021 1:44 pm

    3 years ago

    Submitted to Sunshine Request
    Status: Pending