JCCC statement – SPLC lawsuit against JCCC to be dismissed (Updated)

http://www.jccc.edu/press_releases/2011/gen-splc-suit-dismissal-expected.html

Johnson County Community College
Press Release

College Information and Publications
913-469-8500
Julie Haas, Associate Vice President, Marketing Communications, ext. 3120
Diane Carroll, Writer/Editor, ext. 3425
Tyler Cundith, Sports Information Director, ext. 3122


SPLC lawsuit against JCCC to be dismissed (Updated)

12/01/11

Story by Julie Haas

SPLC lawsuit against JCCC to be dismissed (Updated)

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – The lawsuit regarding open records requests brought against Johnson County Community College by the Student Press Law Center and a former student has been voluntarily dismissed.

The college had estimated that it could cost more than $24,000 to fulfill the request, which the SPLC felt was excessive.

However, the college and the SPLC reached an agreement to provide emails that were easily accessible and pulled from a shorter time range than the original request. Archived emails were not accessed, and college counsel reviewed and redacted emails to remove protected information as permitted by Kansas statute.  The total amount paid to the college was $450.

“There was no ‘settlement’ or resolution involving the payment of any money by the college,” said Joseph M. Sopcich, executive director, administrative services.  “The plaintiffs’ voluntarily dismissed their claims without the necessity to defend the reasonableness of the estimated cost projections to restore computer data from the backup tapes, which is what originally escalated the costs to produce the documents outlined in the original request. “

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Sopcich said, the parties were able to discuss the legitimate rational for the college’s earlier cost estimates and were successful in narrowing the scope of the KORA request to more readily accessible information. Once the college fully complied with the modified request, there was no need for the plaintiffs to proceed with the litigation, resulting in their agreement to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.

“We are pleased by the positive resolution to this situation,” Sopcich said. “The college always complies with Kansas Open Records requests.  However, this request was unusual in both size and scope, in that the request involved months of emails for current and former employees. The college would have had to protect the privacy of the individuals involved, which would have entailed advice from legal counsel as well as staff time to retrieve archived messages. Once the amount of work involved to comply with the request was appreciated, we were able to achieve a resolution satisfactory to all parties.

The Kansas Open Records Act allows the college to charge reasonable fees, not exceeding the actual cost, for access to records, copies of records, and staff time for processing a request. The fees listed by the college were equal to the actual cost of furnishing copies, including the cost of staff time required to make copies or supervise the copying. Fees for providing access to computer records include the cost of computer services, including the staff time required. If the college needs to involve third parties in this process, requestors may be charged their costs as well. Access or inspection costs are based on hourly rates of the individuals involved.

“At no time did the college refuse to provide any requested information,” Sopcich said.

The college’s student newspaper and its current staff were not a party to the open records request or to the lawsuit.

The college is in the process of reviewing its open records act request procedures to more specifically explain its methods for accessing fees for records requests; the updates do not change the process that was previously in place. These updates are expected to be posted on the JCCC website in early 2012.Also see “SPLC brings lawsuit against JCCC” for earlier information about this situation.

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