Information about PIA Requests that Members Need to Know

Water company members have a right to know about the company, including the costs it incurs for facilitating that right to know.

I was elected to the Board on March 9, 2019. Soon after that the water company began receiving a large number of Public Information Act requests, mostly from the plaintiffs suing the water company and their allies in the neighborhood.

The Board has done everything it can to honor these requests in hopes that they might help everyone learn more about our neighborhood water company.

To familiarize yourself with how the company handled this situation as it began to unfold in the spring of 2019, please take a look at meeting minutes here, here, here and here. The corporation had never had to fulfill so many PIA requests in all its years of operation and the Board was on new ground. In 2019, there were 46 requests which required delivery of hundreds of documents. There were approximately 3-5 requests in 2018, and a few in 2017. Before that, it was probably zero. In 2020, the company has received 32 requests thus far.

So recently, at the September 22, 2020, the Public Information Officer (me) and the company’s attorney reported to the Board on the number of requests and some special situations. All requests need some degree of legal review because the corporation has been sued. The company’s lawyers have advised us to retain the company’s rights to attorney-client privileged information contained in their invoices to the WOWSC so that opposing counsel cannot glean litigation strategy from their content.

This matter was discussed in the 9-22-20 Board meeting, particularly with regards to our law firm’s efforts to minimize their charges for response to multiple requests from the same person for the same attorney-client privileged material.

I found the time recently to excerpt that portion of the 9-22 meeting, which you can now view here, on a Zoom-recorded video. I encourage you to spend the 8+ minutes familiarizing yourself with these requests and our attorneys’ efforts to deal with them as inexpensively as possible.

Previously, our handling of this matter was described on NextDoor in this way: “The WOWSC board spent the better half of an hour disparaging me due to my PIA requests.” I hope you will watch the eight-minute discussion and determine for yourself whether the comments were disparaging — or just informative about the costs being incurred.

Please also remember that the continuing kerfuffle over these invoices is also a significant issue in the rate case filing, and you can click here to see a document describing all the legal entanglements these requests are causing — and costing.