Wesson public records are late coming

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A request made in February by The Daily Leader for public records from Wesson Town Hall has been only partially fulfilled.

Emails were sent Feb. 28 to Wesson Municipal Clerk Linda Dykes as well as Brookhaven City Clerk Mike Jinks and Lincoln County Administrator David Fields requesting the right to inspect and copy a list of employees to include name, annual salary, title, job description and employee gender. This information is public record and is available by law under the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.

The newspaper asked that the records be made available within seven working days as allowed by law.

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Within a few days, the Brookhaven City Clerk’s office had responded by telephone. The documents were ready and there would be about a $4 charge for the copies.

On March 8, Fields emailed a copy of the salaries in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet as requested. There was no charge.

Wesson, however, has not produced the public documents, 19 business days after the newspaper sent a written request.

However, Dykes sent an email after town hall closed Monday to say the salary information was completed and would be available this afternoon.Dykes had said by email on March 9 that documents listing employees’ salaries didn’t exist.“Per our attorney, this document does not exist. We will get you a list of employees and salary but all personal information is exempt from disclosure,” she said. She also said there will be a $10 hourly fee charged plus the cost of copies. On March 14, the newspaper sent an email to check the status of the request. Dykes replied the next day that the attorney had been out and would “try to work on it” March 16. The newspaper reached out by email to Dykes again Monday and received a reply from attorney Jeff Varas, who said Wesson had asked him to respond to the request. “As for the salary information, all we can provide is the names of the employees and the amount of salary.  All of that is public record,” he said, but added that personal information such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other personal information are excepted from disclosure.

The Daily Leader did not ask for Social Security numbers or birth dates, just name, annual salary, job description and employee gender.

Varas explained that the delay was due of his unavailability to the town because of two family deaths in a five-week period and also the limited personnel to research the information.

“But by copy of this email, I am asking the clerk to provide you with this information ASAP,” he said.

Veras recommended the fee of $10 per hour be waived “due to our inability to comply as requested.”