Council passes public records ordinance

At its Wednesday night meeting, the Soldotna City Council discussed a public records ordinance.

The council unanimously voted to approve a substitute ordinance brought forth by council member Linda Murphy instead of an administration introduced ordinance.

The original ordinance was introduced on the council’s consent agenda at its Jan. 8 meeting. City Clerk Shellie Saner said the ordinance’s main goal is to clarify the procedure for handling requests for public records.

Murphy’s ordinance made three “major changes” to the administration’s public records ordinance, one of which made the ordinance less restrictive, she said.

The first change was that it substituted city clerk for city manager throughout the ordinance because according to Alaska Statute, the city clerk is the records manager, she said.

“There may be a few municipalities where the manager makes that final decision, but I’m not aware of any,” Murphy said.

To ensure record requests are well tracked, Murphy’s ordinance changed some references to city agencies to city clerk. The original ordinance called for requests for records to be submitted to the department keeping the record.

“I think it’s important that we have one person receiving all requests regardless of where the record is stored at that time,” she said. … “And make sure that one person is responsible for not only taking that request in but see it through its conclusion including the collection of any fees that may be assessed.”

The original ordinance gave the city manager and chief of police candidates as well as current employees the right to decide if their applications could be released to the public. Murphy said the section is actually written so that they would have to approve the release of their employment applications. She cited state case law in which the courts determined high-ranking city employees don’t have any right to privacy when it comes to employment applications.

City Manager Mark Dixson said the administration supports the substitute ordinance.

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

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