Commission recommends fine after delay on public records

Starkville City Clerk Lesa Hardin (courtesy)
Staff Writer

The Mississippi Ethics Commission recommends fining Starkville City Clerk Lisa Hardin $100 for failure to meet the statutory deadline for answering an open records request.

The recommendation for the fine was sent after a complaint was filed by Kenneth Aasand, the former George M. Bryan Airport fixed based operator who requested the minutes of a previous Starkville Airport Board meeting.

According to the Mississippi Public Records Act, unless there is a mutual agreement between the two parties or the information requested is part of ongoing negotiations related to a request for competitive sealed proposals, the production of the requested records can’t be any later than 14 working days. The act also states denying access to public records or charging unreasonable fees for production results in $100 per violation.

As city clerk, Hardin’s main responsibility is to serve as record keeper of the official minutes of the mayor and Board of Aldermen, along with city ordinances and public records relating to city government.

Mayor Lynn Spruill said the MEC sent a letter to the city notifying officials about the fine.

Spruill said the records request came at a busy time with elections and other deadlines for the office. Through all of the requests she received, Spruill said a couple “fell through the cracks.”

“It’s very unfortunate because (Hardin) is caught in the middle of it,” Spruill said.

Spruill emphasized Hardin has a role with all things dealing with the city and there are a lot of “moving parts” which make providing information more difficult than people understand.

Spruill said policies and procedures are now in place to help prevent other situations such as this one, because she understands the importance of having these documents accessible.

“We will continue to do our very best to have the items available to the public,” Spruill said. “I have full confidence in Lesa and the work that she does for this city.”

Hardin declined to comment on the fine