FOIA documents from rare appeal still unclaimed

Work cost $175 plus attorney fees.

Freedom of Information Act documents that sparked a rare appeal to the Laketown Township board are still unclaimed after more than two months. Answering the request cost the township $175 plus attorney fees.

James Smithers, 520 Butternut Drive, filed a FOIA request for “Emails between all board members and Albert Meshkin for the month of August 2023 that includes any business, and Patrick Dietrich for the same period.”

Meshkin is the township manager. Dietrich was one of five candidates for appointment to an open trustee position in August. Dietrich was chosen over the other candidates in a 3-1 vote on Aug. 30.

State law allows the municipality to charge for the labor in fulfilling a FOIA request. Meshkin estimated the work would take him 3 hours for a total cost of $210. It actually took 2.5 hours for a total of $175.

Smithers said in the written appeal to the township board that Meshkin “appears to be discouraging FOIA requests” with the fee.

The township board on Oct. 11 heard Smithers’ appeal to reduce the cost from $210 to $175 and agreed to the lower amount. Smithers did not attend the meeting.

Appeals to a township board are rare, according to attorney John Weiss who advised the township board at the Oct. 11 meeting.

The payment has not been made as of Dec. 19, according to Meshkin.

“The information will be filed until Mr. Smithers, if he really does exist, comes in and pays the fees,” Meshkin said.

Township FOIA

To find the FOIA documents on the townships website, visit www.laketowntwp.org, scroll down on the right column to “Ordinances & Legal Notices” and scroll to “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).” Choose the appropriate form.