Monkey Business with Open Records Requests At The City
No matter how much things change the more they stay the same. I do not trust the city to give me accurate and up to date information pursuant to my open records requests. It is a constant battle trying to pry information from the city that results in unnecessary work and erroneous information. Whether this is a result of an attempt to keep information away from the community, incompetence or both I still do not know. Whatever the case it is extremely irritating.
Last Friday I updated you on the Basic IDIQ bid issue. I submitted an open records request asking for information on any change orders issued to the company. I thought I was specific enough yet somehow the information I received does not coincide with the public record.
I asked for “a list of change orders requested by or issued to Basic IDIQ showing the date the request for change order was submitted, the amount of the change order request and the description for the work the change order request is for; whether such change order has been approved, or not approved by city council or whether the change order is pending processing by the city or whether the change order was declined by the city starting on January 14, 2015 through October 16, 2014.”
You probably noticed that I inadvertently typed a five, instead of a four for the starting year. The city caught that and asked me to clarify if I had meant 2014. I responded that I had meant 2014. In response to my open records request, I received one change order for Basic IDIQ.
The change order the city sent me was for a project titled “Five Points Terminal Renovation and Improvements BI Project Number 15-1800-86.” The total amount of the change order was for $28, 898.64.
At first glance, it appeared that the change order was one of the ones discussed at the city council meeting of October 14. However as I looked closer at the four-page document I received from the city I realized that the contractor’s letter asking for a change order was dated December 17, 2013.
The contract for the San Jacinto Plaza was not awarded until the following year, in December to be specific and therefore this change order could not have been related to the San Jacinto project.
Unfortunately, this left me in a quandary. I submitted a request for copies if change orders, “whether approved, or not approved by city council or whether the change order is pending processing by the city.” I also added that I also wanted change orders even if the city had declined them.
I believe that my wording was asking for any change order submitted to the city by Basic IDIQ whether paid, not paid, accepted, or declined by the city. Basically, any change order submitted by them to the city.
Except for the one change order, the city did not send me any other copies of change orders. Yet, city council on October 14 publicly heard that three change orders were approved for Basic IDIQ. On one hand, the city is telling the elected officials that three change orders have been processed and on the other hand, the city tells me that there is only one, unrelated change order.
I realize that there could be a technicality here and that the change orders referenced by the city at the council meeting on October 14 were issued to a subsidiary of Basic IDIQ, or a partner however, I doubt that. I guess to get to the bottom of this dilemma I could submit another open records request specifically asking for copies of the three change orders discussed during the city council meeting of October 14.
This begs the question though, how many open records requests are necessary to get the expected information and how many are too many? I am cognizant that filing open records requests end up costing the taxpayers of the community in staff time and city resources. Therefore, I consciously limit my filings and look for the information before actually filing the request.
However, this latest example has me furious and believing that the city is monkeying around with the responses that I get for my open records requests.