County to revise public record policy

A new public records policy may be put in place soon for Union County.

The Union County Board of Supervisors may soon consider a change in its policy, due not only to a change in the statute, but also due to requests made for information about arrest records.
Board attorney Thad Mueller informed the board Monday of the need for revision.
“We adopted a public records policy in the past. The statute has changed. We need to modify our public records policy,” said Mueller. “If we don’t have a policy, we have to turn over public records in a day. Under the old policy, is was 14 days. Now the statute has been changed to seven days. You can still go out 14 days if you can’t produce them.”
He went on to explain that most public records won’t be affected like land records because they are readily available records in which someone wanting them would not need assistance from the Chancery Clerk, someone from the Sheriff’s Department or Justice Clerk’s office.
“We are getting a lot of requests from people that are publishing magazines where they publish mugshots and arrest reports. They are requesting [mugshots and arrest records] from every county and that takes us some time to get together,” said Mueller.
According to Mueller, the law says that public records have to be made available for anyone upon request. He suggested that possibly Chancery Clerk Annette Hickey could be made the main contact person for public records requests and if she had a question or concern about a record, she would call Mueller and he could tell her if it is considered public record or not.
Board President Danny Jordan said, “I don’t understand why we have to send that information anyway.”
Mueller said, “We don’t have to mail it, but if we do, we can charge them.” He said that the county could charge for copying paperwork and for taking the time to compile all of the information.
Sheriff Tommy Wilhite said, “Sending the information is not a big issue, but compiling all of the information takes time.”
The board discussed the possibility of giving the workers that would compile the information more pay for doing that exact work.
Another issue of concern that the board members discussed was the fact that there was nothing determined as to where the information would go after being sent to people publishing crime magazines or people wanting public records information in general.
The board will take this matter under advisement and make a final decision on the policy at a later date.
Last week, the board discussed purchasing two community storm shelters to be located at the Pinedale Fire Department. The board also chose to purchase two community storm shelters Southern Homes Safety Incorporated out of Prairie for the price of $7,859.  The shelters will be located at the Pinedale Fire Department.
Sheriff Wilhite requested a new vehicle for the Union County Sheriff’s Department. The quotes are for a  2005 Chevy Pickup with 205,721 miles, 4 x 4, for $10,500 from Ted Hobson Motors. The other vehicle is a 2005 Ford Explorer 4-door Sport with 115,000 miles for $9,000 from Parks Chevrolet. The board took this under advisement and will discuss the vehicle in further detail and make a decision at a later date. A new vehicle needs to be purchased because the shop truck died that is used to transport trustees and equipment.
The board will reconvene Monday, March 28, 2011 at 10 a.m. in the Chancery Building Boardroom. The public is invited to attend.