A pointless crusade
To the Editor:
My name is Barry Prescott and I consider myself a proud and active American. I am a resident of Dixfield and proud to be a member of the Dixfield Fire Company.
This letter is in response to accusations made by Dwight Hines in a recent Sun Journal article.
Then President Clinton stated during the signing of the 1996 FOIA Amendment into law that “in the last 30 years citizens, scholars and reporters have used FOIA to obtain vital and valuable information.”
In my scan of the FOAA, I could find no mention of its purpose being to allow citizens to demand records simply “because they can” with no purpose or direction. Mr. Hines' requests for records do not seem to me to indicate a man on a mission, but rather an eccentric on a pointless crusade.
Hines says towns must make public access a priority equal to other municipal tasks. I would surmise Mr. Hines would be at the forefront of protestors if municipalities were forced to raise taxes in order to add manpower to comply with frivolous requests for information or if a home was lost to fire because fire apparatus was not properly maintained because time was wasted gathering information to comply with a nuisance request with absolutely no tangible goal.
Mr. Hines made a very bold and derogatory statement about the Dixfield Fire Company that “right now I don’t think these guys have good enough records to know what they are doing. I think it is a lot of laziness.”
I invite Mr. Hines to join my fellow firefighters and I in our efforts to keep ourselves trained and ready to act at a moment’s notice, day or night, rain or shine, and to keep our equipment ready for action and to comply with the ever increasing demands of government to keep us in compliance so we can serve our community. All this around working our regular jobs, in some cases two or three jobs, to provide for our families.
I take great offense at being called lazy because we cannot provide records requested frivolously at a moment’s notice. Our first priority is to protect the lives and property of our citizens Mr. Hines, not to waste our time compiling records for you simply and ridiculously because the law allows you to request them with no purpose for them.
If Mr. Hines is so knowledgeable and proficient in complying with FOIA wouldn’t his time be better spent offering to assist local municipalities to compile public records in such a way as to make them easier to disseminate rather than to slander already overworked and under paid public servants?
In the short time since this letter has been composed, Mr. Hines has filed a federal lawsuit against the Dixfield Fire Co., their fire chief, the selectman and town manager of Dixfield, even though several offers of compliance within the guidelines of FOAA have been made to Mr. Hines.
Mr. Hines does not believe that he should be required to pay $10 per hour, allowed by FOAA, for the research time expended by the already overworked town officials to provide the detailed records Mr. Hines demands.
I obviously already know what my feelings are on this use of taxpayer dollars, but I would invite any other resident of the area to express their opinions of this subject to Mr. Hines and the press. I believe taxes are already high enough without being forced to pay for defense against frivolous lawsuits, and nuisance request for volumes of information in the name of area development.