ROCKLAND, Maine — A board member for the local vocational board was billed $49 earlier this month to obtain a copy of an audio tape of a board meeting that he had missed.
However, the executive director said that board member Guy Bourrie of Washington was charged because he was asking for the information as a private citizen and not as a board member. Executive Director Beth Fisher also pointed out that Bourrie had been offered the opportunity to come to the school and listen to the tape at his convenience.
The director and board member exchanged a number of emails following his request for a copy of a Feb. 27 meeting of the Region 8 Vocational Board which oversees the Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland.
Bourrie said he missed the meeting due to a snowstorm.
A formal meeting was not held that night, Fisher said, because too few members attended due to snow in the inland communities and a quorum was not reached. However, the board members who came agreed to hear scheduled presentations from staff and students, but Fisher stressed that no action was taken.
Bourrie made his request on March 5. Fisher told him a copy would be provided as time permitted.
Bourrie countered that state law required that he receive it within five days.
What the law actually requires, however, is that the organization provide a reason for denying a request within 5 working days of the request being made. Otherwise, the records must be made available “within a reasonable period of time” after the request was made.
But Bourrie’s demand led to a flurry of emails between him and vocational school staff, and to his filing a complaint with the state right-to-know ombudsman with the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
Fisher said the meetings are taped on a mini-cassette and that the school did not have the equipment to copy it and that it would take time. Finally, the district provided the tape but noted that it had to charge him to cover the costs of staff time to make the copy.
Bourrie said a technical school should be able to handle the technical aspects of copying an audio tape.
Bourrie said he was not happy paying, but agreed to do it. He suggested that this set a precedent for charging any board member requesting information.
Fisher countered, however, that if the board requests information then it is provided, but if an individual requests information and it will require considerable staff time, then the individual needs to be charged.
Fisher said Thursday that Bourrie makes numerous requests. She said there were 50 email requests for information from him in January, including 15 in one day.
Bourrie acknowledged he makes many email requests for information but that it is necessary.
He declined to comment on what his general concerns were and why he needed the information.