How to deal with a lazy city employee

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about five years ago, after I bought the current residence, I went to the city's building department and ask to purchase a set of plans for my house. It's a small city and you know like only one person is responsible for records and archives. He asked for the address and then when it was built, I said 1980, he started to shake his head and said they don't have plans that go this far back, no way. I said nothing at all? He scratched his head and said there may be some microfilms on file for some of the houses but those are only for permits. I begged him to take a look and he went inside for ten minutes, came out with a drawer of microfilm and said there are indeed some plans for the house there and he showed me one of them. I looked at them under the light and sure enough plans for foundation, floor plans, electrical, structural, HVAC, water and sewer and other stuff. I asked if I can make hard copies of these and he said no, those are originals and they can't make any copies, but I can use their overhead projector machine and review the plans as long as I wanted. He took me back there and at the time, I was interested in the electrical plans so I looked at that one in details, and sketched a copy on paper by hand.
Now fast forward to today. I need to look at the foundation plans so I went there again. That guy is gone and now a lady. I asked to see her, and she is behind the partition I can hear her chatting on the phone about person stuff. Then she terminated the call, chatted with someone else next to her cubicle, took her time to get her mug of hot coffee then came out looking at me as if I was interrupting her hard work. I asked to see the plans, she asked me when was the house built, I said 1980 and she started to shake her head "no way, we don't have plans that go this far back". I said you have it on microfilm, I saw it five years ago. She was surprised, looked at me, and said "you looked at the microfilm?" I said yes, she goes "It's impossible because it is against our policy to allow non-employees to look at the microfilm" I said "well I did, they let me look at it then, and it's got all the plans I need on them, and I sat right there". She said "it is impossible because we are not allowed to show microfilms to anyone else". I said if this is the case, can you do the search for me, and if you find it, make me some copies of it...she goes "what is the address?" I said "123 blah street" and she shaked her head immediately and said "there is nothing on this address, I know every single address by heart I can tell you now there is absolutely no microfilm on record for this address" (yeah right!) I said "can you please take a look? I need those plans and i assure you I saw them on microfilm five years ago, please?" She thought for two seconds and said "OK I will go take a look, but it will take at least four to six weeks to know...what's your phone number?" I told her my phone number and she pretended for a few seconds to memorize it (did not bother to write it down did not ask me for my name and did not ask me to repeat the address!) She has no intention to do anything.
Any idea what I can do?
MC
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Freedom of Information legislation in your jurisdiction?
I'd spend a couple fo hundred bucks and have a lawyer (not local) write a letter.
--
Life. Nature\'s way of keeping meat fresh. -- Dr. Who


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FOIA is good. They have to have a solid reason to deny your request.
You may also want to contact the builder. They may have copies of the blueprints.
Pagan
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I thought that only applied to federal agencies?
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As far as I know, it applies to all government agencies.
Either way, if the city, county, or whatever doesn't have a darn good reason not to, they must supply whatever information you request.
Pagan
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You aren't making sense. If FOIA only applies to federal agencies, then the city county or whatever doesn't have to do a damn thing about your request, unless some other local law compells them to do so.
According to:
http://www.usdoj.gov/oip/foia_updates/Vol_I_2/page3.htm , Which is the Department of Justice Website discussing the issue,
"The statute obligates *FEDERAL* agencies to respond to "any request for records" from "any person." 5 U.S.C. 552(a)(3). The only limitations in the statute itself are that the request must be one "which (A) reasonably describes such records and (B) is made in accordance with published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any), and procedures to be followed . . ."
(Emphasis mine).
As I said before, many states have their own version of this law, but you have to know which state you're in, and what the law actually requires.
http://www.nfoic.org/web/ has a lot of state-specific information. RI, for instance, has an open records law that, on first reading, is actually MORE agressive than the federal FOIA act. http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE38/38-2/38-2-3.HTM
So OP really should go to the nfioc website, find out what the city clerk in question is actually required to do, and probably bring a printout of the relevent law with him when he goes back.
--Goedjn
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<tearful tale of woe snipped>
Get ahold of your councilman/woman/person and tell them what you want. They should be able to get it done.
If you fail that, go to the mayor. If that fails, go to the next council meeting, and make a request in public.
From there, it's gonna cost you money.
Steve
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Bob
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Three possibilities that I can see working; well, trying at least. .
Send her a note as a reminder that you are still waiting
Talk to the building inspector.
See her boss. Everyone in every town has a boss.
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Can you get a lwayer to shoot of a letter to her requesting them?

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Pick one up at an office somewhere, and then put the bull on. Or have one deal with it for you. You know, I pay your salary, and this guy gets it back.
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to the mayor. A copy to the local paper wouldn't hurt. Describe the records, and when you last saw them. That way, when they lie to you again, they'll have to do it in writing. Expect to pay labor and repro charges, but they aren't allowed to charge more than actual costs. You should have insisted on hardcopies of the microfilm five years ago- they have no legal basis for denying that, even if they had to send it out to get it done.
Of course, the drone may have been technically correct- they may have shitcanned all the old microfilm in an office cleaning after the previous guy left. Small town offices are remarkably casual that way, sometimes.
aem sends...... (I used to ANSWER FOIA requests for a government agency.)
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miamicuse wrote:

Contact the city manager or your council person, if you have either in your burg.
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Before you climb the ladder of blame, try the woman again. Alienating her may only cause difficulty later if you apply for your own permit.
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miamicuse wrote:

From there it might have been a good idea to thank her and ask her who made the rule. When she responded "I don't know" then ask to see her boss. Keep up the same until you find someone who knows something about this "rule." Once you know who made the rule and if it is based on some legal issue you will know how to proceed. Chances are good that if you are nice and business like, you may find someone who will take care of the problem.
--
Joseph Meehan

Dia duit
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Same thing you do every time you have this problem with anyone... call their boss. For city/town officials, keep going up the ladder until you get to someone who's elected. They will either give someone grief on your behalf, or you should stop voting for them.
In the meantime, some states have equivalents to the Freedom of Information act, in which case, you can amuse yourself by suing the city.
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In the rest of the world the old adage that sh-t flows downhill is a whole lot more effective. Even if the big honcho never reads your letter (always send a letter) it doesn't matter. If his secretary sends a note "From the desk of Big Honcho" it will quickly get the results. I have sent letters to CEO's and company presidents and assure you it works.
Charlie
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MC,
As Robertm indicates minor bribery will get you the plans. Wait the four week, then return to the office around coffee break time with a dozen donuts and ask if the plans are ready yet.
Dave M.
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David Martel ( snipped-for-privacy@earthlink.net) said...

Any time there is a meeting at the office, someone afterwards sends an email to all those in attendance, and any managers above them, outlining what was covered, particualarly the who-does-what-and-when details.
I would send a letter to the woman, and her supervisor, outlining just the who-does-what-and-when (i.e.: she will pull the microfilm of the plans for your address, make copies, and have them available in four weeks)
Just stick with main facts, don't get into describing attitude, and leave out spurrious details, like the parts about "IF she finds them" and "to six", as in phrase "four to six weeks".
Then, wait four weeks from the date of your visit, and show up with the box of donuts at coffee break time, all smiles, to pick up your plans! :-)
If the plans are not ready when you arrive, open the box of donuts, take one out, take a bite and say, with your best mouth-full-of-donut voice, "I'll wait". ;-)
--
Calvin Henry-Cotnam
"Never ascribe to malice what can equally be explained by incompetence."
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There have been some good ideas here, but working with a city, I wouldn't go straight to the very top until you've tried a little more. First of all, this should be covered under the 'open records act'. Actually if they are, you're entitled to a copy at a small charge. If this lady does not have them available next time you go there, ask to speak to her supervisor. If the supervisor can't deliver, then ask to speak with the city manager or commissioner. Tell the supervisor that you've tried all you can do and you know the records exist, so he leaves you no choice. You should get results but if you go from the top down, it could delay things. Do you really think the mayor knows about these plans ? Not hardly.
J
miamicuse wrote:

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