A Woolwine resident is continuing his quest for information – this time from the Patrick County School division.
Russell W. “Bill” Moore forwarded his requests for specific information about items in the county’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget, including “all minutes of meetings, electronic communications, emails, notes, records of telephone calls,” and other documents regarding capital leases of school buses, computer, front-end loader for the transfer station and energy efficient equipment – to the school division.
He made the request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a state law which gives residents the right to obtain government information upon request. Under the law, when a request is received, the government must either grant the request or show it is legal to not honor it.
Moore has alleged the county failed to comply with earlier requests. Two court hearings have been held in the case, and a third is scheduled to be held in May.
Moore requested several documents, including those outlined above, as well information about a negative variance included in the county’s 2016 audit.
A negative variance indicates losses and/or shortfalls, according to online information.
At the most recent hearing on April 25, according to County Administrator Tom Rose County Attorney Allen Black, Moore had been directed to ask for certain of those documents from the school division’s central office.
Black submitted supporting documentation – copies of emails between Rose, Donna Shough, the county’s finance officer – and Moore. Some of those emails directed Moore to ask the school division for some the documentation he sought, according to discussion.
Moore contended the school division lacks the authority to enter into agreements that encumber the county with debt.
Rose said that the county approves funding for the school division by category. As long as funds are spent within a certain category, additional approval from the supervisors is not required, Rose said. If, however, the school division wants to move funds from one category to another, additional approval is needed.
Rose testified in most cases, the school division is funded via monthly fund transfers by the county treasurer. Those expanses are approved by the county only as part of a monthly expense or bills packet.
Rose testified some that of the funds used for the leases were savings from refinancing school debt. He said the refinancing was structured in such a way as to realize the majority of cost savings within the first three years. Savings in the first year totaled $819,000, Rose said. It is now in the second year of savings, he added.
Rose testified the refinancing was approved by consensus of the supervisors rather than as a recorded vote. As a result, Rose said any documents regarding that discussion would be available from the school board office.
Rose said to his knowledge, the county did not have the related documents requested.
General District Court Judge Marcus Brinks said Moore’s requests are specific.
Moore “wants to know what they (county officials) saw … It would be really easy to provide that. … I still think he (Moore) needs to see the agendas,” minutes of meetings and other documents requested, the judge said.
He ordered county officials to provide the documents to Moore and/or direct him to other locations (such as the school division), if needed. If the records do not exist, Brinks said Moore should be told that as well.
The case was initially heard on April 11. Rose was ordered to pay $56 in associated court costs.
Members of the Patrick County Board of Supervisors did not attend the April 25 hearing.