Arp's Theory Part II

After announcing to elected and appointed officials a couple of weeks ago that he was violating the open meetings law and plans to continue to do so, Loudon County Mayor, Doyle Arp, has now decided to break the public records laws as well.

At the last commission work shop, Arp presented commissioners his plan for all but eliminating the public's ability to obtain public records. With no discussion, commissioners were given a resolution that by any account could have been written by a six year old. The only thing missing was the use of crayons to write the epistle. It's obvious Arp sought no legal assistance in the concoction of this document or if he did, it must have been of low caliber.  Part of his plan is to charge citizens by the minute for obtaining copies. I kid you not. Click Here For Resolution. (PDF) It could take longer to fill out the request form and calculate the bill than to make a copy. And since you will be paying by the minute for services, you will want assistance from one of the faster moving employees.

A reading of Arp's resolution indicates that the mayor now has the authority to ignore and write state law, powers usually reserved for the legislature. In his ridiculous resolution, Arp seeks to make the obtainment of public records so complicated and potentially expensive, that the average citizen may not want to put in the time, effort or money it would take just get a copy of a document that by law should be readily available to the public. Of course, that's his plan.

One could argue the legalities of Arp's proposal till the cows come home but it would do no good. From the U.S. Supreme Court down, all the courts have ruled over and over in favor of the citizens right to know what their government is doing. Mr. Arp and his hired guns are depending on what all disreputable elected officials depend on in this situation and that is that no citizen has the time nor the resources to fight them in court.

Most every aspect of Arp's plan to keep the "public" from "public" records is in violation of the Public Records Act but that matters little to people like Mr. Arp who's goal is total control and domination of his surroundings. One of the consistent requirements of Arp's policy is that the every thing must go through the "Mayor's office" to view public records. Given that Arp informed the commission that his doctors have told him he can only work four hours a day, this could greatly hinder a citizens ability to get the mayor's permission to view public records. My last request to view public records took thirty days to receive the requested document. And then I only got it after the mayor approved my request.

Hypothetically speaking, even if what the mayor is wanting to do were legal, does that make it right? Mr. Arp has made many misleading statements and just flatly lied about citizens abusing the request for records. And this whole notion that his motivation to shut out the public is based on protecting employee's private information is pure fantasy. Not once in four years on commission did I hear of any one ever asking for or attempting to gain access to protected information. This is just more disinformation put out by Arp to attempt to justify his illegal actions.

Now he wants to make commission complicit to his illegal actions. It's not the place of private citizens to have to hire attorneys and take legal action to compel elected officials to obey the law. That is the place of commission. The County Mayor is not the ruling authority of this county. In fact he has no legislative authority at all. The county mayor takes his marching orders from the commission, not the other way around.

I for one have never felt that citizens should be charged for copies of any public documents. After all, who pays for the county's paper, copiers, toner, leases and for that matter Mr. Arps salary. That's right, the citizens. And now seems they may have to pay twice.

What would compel an official to want to keep secrets? What could be in those financial and budgetary documents that are so vitally important that Arp would violate the law to keep out prying eyes? I have reported in the past, Arp's problems with public records. Is it wrong for a Loudon County resident to simply want a copy of the budget or to want to see where their tax dollars are going?

To my friends and former fellow commissioners. We spent years being treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed horse manure. Only recently did we start to learn just how much damage can be done when information is kept under wraps. I don't think anyone wants to step back into the dark ages. The adoption of Arp's resolution would be a giant step backwards for Loudon County.

Click Here For 1/28/07 News Herald Editorial On Arp's Policy. (PDF)                Click Here For Story