SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Whether Town Manager Don Lagrange’s cell phone records are public records subject to Maine’s Freedom of Access Act is in dispute, following a request from a resident.
Jim Snow, a 16-year resident of the town, said during a public comment period at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting that he first filed a FOAA request for the records two years ago. The town has asked him to pay $125 for the time required to compile the requested records.
Snow expects transparency from the town manager, he told the Islander Monday. “And in my opinion, [Lagrange] doesn’t like transparency.”
Snow refused to say why he was requesting the town manager’s phone records.
In January, Snow decided to renew his original FOAA request. Town Clerk Marilyn Lowell reportedly told him, “Those records are not in the town’s possession to provide you.”
Snow said he’s getting conflicting information from the town. Lowell told him the records are not available, but Lagrange said they could be made available if he paid.
Lagrange, who uses a flip phone, said “there’s no information there except numbers.”
Like other town employees, Lagrange uses his personal mobile phone to make business calls, and the town pays him a monthly $20 stipend toward his cell phone bill. He has chosen not to carry an additional, town-provided phone, because it could cost the town up to $30 more each month, he said.
“It’s a fair deal for the town, and I don’t want to carry two cell phones anyway,” he added.
Lagrange has agreed to provide his cell phone records but is requesting that Snow be charged $15 an hour for the time it would take to redact personal information and 20 cents for making copies.
State law requires that the first hour of work be provided for free, and every additional hour of searching, retrieving, compiling, reviewing, redacting and converting be capped at $15, regardless of the records provider’s hourly wage.
Snow refuses to pay the charge, saying that he hasn’t asked for physical copies of the records. He has offered to pay for the time spent scanning the documents instead.
But his bigger issue is with the town office not collecting and retaining this information in the first place.
“These are records that should be turned over to the town for public inspection, and they are not.”
According to the Maine State Archives’ local government retention schedules, a municipality is not required to collect or keep cell phone records. They are considered an employee’s possession. Some accounting departments may request employees to submit phone records in order to verify the stipend they receive, but the law does not obligate the town to do so.