Soldotna to consider public records ordinance

An ordinance concerning the disclosure of public records is slated to be introduced as a consent agenda item at Soldotna City Council’s Wednesday meeting.

The ordinance calls for a public hearing at the council’s Jan. 22 meeting. If passed, Ordinance 2014-001 would create a new chapter in the city’s municipal code outlining what records are exempt from disclosure and the procedure for request.

Currently the city uses the Alaska Statue 40.25 as a guide for public record disclosure, but the statue doesn’t lay out a “clear, defined process” for request and response procedures, Shellie Saner, Soldotna city clerk, said.

“My main goal with this is to make sure that the process is definitely more easier for the public and the city staff to know what to expect when they request a record,” Saner said.

In looking at other cities similar in size to Soldotna, Saner found that the majority have code for disclosure of public records. The city of Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough both have such codes.

According to Ordinance 2014-001, the purpose of not disclosing certain records is to protect personal privacy interests, law enforcement activities and sensitive financial interests.

Exempted records, listed by the ordinance include privileged city attorney communications, medical files of personnel, financial engineering and technical specifications.

“These are just things that are proprietary and protected because they’re protecting individuals’ personal information,” Saner said.

The ordinance calls for records requests to be approved or denied by the city manager. If it is approved, the appropriate department will locate the records and the city attorney will review the request to make sure there is no reason not to release the records, Saner said.

According to the ordinance, within 10 business days of receiving a records request, the city must either provide the record or state in writing that the record is not subject to inspection as well as a citation of the law that requires the city to withhold the record.

The ordinance allows for an extension of 10 additional business days with a notice to the requester and an explanation for extension. It also allows the city to require searching and copying fees.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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