reports from a local parent monitoring public education in New Orleans

RSD non-response to Facilities Master Plan FOIA

From: Amelia Lafont
Date: Mon, Jun 23, 2008 at 2:08 PM
Subject: 2nd Request: Freedom of Information Request to RSD for Facilities Master Plan information
To: Siona LaFrance
Cc: Tracie Washington

Dear Ms. LaFrance,

One week ago, I submitted the FOIA request below, and I haven’t had a response. The records should have been provided to me no later than last Thursday, and they are now three days late. Please provide copies of the records as the law states.

Thank you,
Amy Lafont

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Amelia Lafont
Date: Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 1:23 PM
Subject: Freedom of Information Request to RSD for Facilities Master Plan information
To: Siona LaFrance

Amelia Lafont
PO Box 51153 ,
New Orleans, LA 70151
***

Siona LaFrance
Communications Director
Recovery School District
1641 Poland Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
(504) 373-6200 ext. 20084
(504) 214-7994 cell
(504) 309-3647 fax

June 16, 2008

Dear Ms. LaFrance:

I respectfully make the following Request for Public Records as authorized by the Louisiana Public Records Law enumerated in LA R.S. 44:1 et seq. and adopted by the City of New Orleans in Section 2-773 of the Code of Ordinances, City of New Orleans. Please provide these records within three days as per LA R.S. 44:33.

Should a question be raised as to whether the record(s) requested are public documents, please inform me of your determination – in writing – within three days of receipt of this request. Such a determination “shall contain a reference to the basis under law which the custodian has determined exempts a record, or any part thereof, from inspection, copying, or reproduction.” (LA R.S. 44:32.D)

Since the purpose of this request is to inform the public of the operations of your agency – a public purpose – I request a fee waiver for duplication. (LA R.S. 44:32.C(2))

The following information is being requested:

1. A complete copy of most recent draft of the Facilities Master Plan, in whatever stage of completion it exists.
2. Meeting agendas, minutes, sign-in sheets, and public notices from all meetings wherein the FMP RFP was prepared, issued, responses were received, reviewed, and contractors selected.
3. A roster of all who participated in the decision making process of FMP contractor selection, including state employees, board members, para-professionals, and community members.
4. All responses received to the Request for Proposals to conduct the plan.
5. Complete file copies of all due diligence performed on the selected FMP contractors.
6. All contracts signed for the execution of the Facilities Master Plan, including subcontractor contracts.
7. Copies of invoices received and statements of payments made to the contractors to date.
8. Copies of contract changes including extensions and/or change-orders to complete the extended work now required.

Thank you,
Amelia Lafont

FW: Public Records Request
Siona LaFrance to me 3:17 PM

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Chris Fruge
To: “‘ameilia.lafont@gmail.com’”
Date: Fri, 20 Jun 2008 13:55:09 -0500
Subject: Public Records Request

Ms. Lafont:

I have been informed of your recent public records request for the following documents:

1. A complete copy of most recent draft of the Facilities Master Plan, in whatever stage of completion it exists.
2. Meeting agendas, minutes, sign-in sheets, and public notices from all meetings wherein the FMP RFP was prepared, issued, responses were received, reviewed, and contractors selected.
3. A roster of all who participated in the decision making process of FMP contractor selection, including state employees, board members, para-professionals, and community members.
4. All responses received to the Request for Proposals to conduct the plan.
5. Complete file copies of all due diligence performed on the selected FMP contractors.
6. All contracts signed for the execution of the Facilities Master Plan, including subcontractor contracts.
7. Copies of invoices received and statements of payments made to the contractors to date.
8. Copies of contract changes including extensions and/or change-orders to complete the extended work now required.

First, with regard to the Facilities Master Plan, It is my understanding that the Facilities Master Plan is not yet fully completed. Parsons is still in the process of producing the final plan. The Louisiana Public Records Act defines a “public record” as a document (I’m paraphrasing somewhat here) used or to be used in the performance of a public business. Louisiana’s Attorney General has previously opined that incomplete documents that are not yet final are not yet at the stage where they are used in the performance of public business and therefore do not constitute “public records” as defined by the Louisiana Public Act. See AG. Op. 1998-21. Louisiana’s Attorney General has also previously opined that “…[w]hen documents are not yet in the form of a final report, the public board or agency should be given an opportunity to make corrections and to complete the document before public inspection is allowed.” See AG. Op. 79-242. The Department of Education/Recovery School District will make the Facilities Master Plan available for public inspection once it is completed.

With regard to the proposals submitted in response to the RFP, (1) Parsons stated that it’s detailed pricing data constituted a trade secret, (2) ISES stated that its financial reports/data those documents withheld for privacy/proprietary considerations, (3) Dejong also asked that any financial data submitted by it be withheld for the same reason. See La. R.S. 51:1431 et seq., Art. 1 ยง 5 of the Louisiana Constitution.

We will find whatever other documents LDE/RSD has which are responsive to your request. You have asked for copies and have also asked for a waiver of the fee for copies. Note that your conclusory statement of “public purpose” does not entitle you to free copies, and even if you were to state that your “public purpose” was the dissemination of information to the public, that does not suffice as the type of “public purpose” contemplated under the pertinent regulation. Even journalists are required to pay the required fee for copies. You likewise will be expected to pay the appropriate fee (25 cents per page) for copies as a prerequisite to receiving copies. I will be happy to provide you a cost estimate prior to having you incur that expense so you can make the decision as to whether you wish to pay the required copying fee and obtain copies.

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