Alice Campbell Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
No. That's how Havre and Hill County governments have replied to an open records request by the State Treasure Network for no-bid contracts and government contracts over $1,000. Robert Adney, the organization's executive director, said the requests were made to help identify where spending can be cut, especially in the wake of scandals such as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s. "We don't think we're going to find any kind of corruption," he said, but added he hopes that posting the information will show taxpayers where their money is going and "how to save some money and really examine the process." Havre and Hill County see the request as time no one has to spare spent looking up documents. "All our records are public, and we would assist somebody to come in and find it," County Commissioner Mike Wendland said. Because of what he referred to as the large amount of records requested, "We just don't have the staff and the resources to do that." Clerk and Recorder Diane Mellem, who received the initial written request agreed. "I made it very clear we do not have the staff to do the type of research that they were asking for," she said about the "vague" request. She included in her reply that if the request was made more specifically, she would find the items needed. Havre City Clerk Lowell Swenson said the request seemed "not very specific to me" and added that it would take a long time for him to locate all the documents. Adney said he doesn't understand. "The fact is that (letter) states pretty clearly that we want just a list of all active contracts," he said, adding that the request seems to be a simple one for what he views as information that should be readily accessible. The letters requesting contract information were sent to all the counties and each city in Montana with more than 1,000 residents, 31 state agencies and 14 uniVersities. Adney said, the state agencies and universities replied promptly with information or worked with Adney's organization to transfer information. From those entities, Adney said the Treasure State Network has received information on more than 2,900 contracts, "but all of a sudden the counties have no idea what I'm talking about." The cities, like the counties, are not refusing information, but are asking for a more specific request. Havre city attorneys sent a reply similar to Hill County’s. Only one of the counties has already submitted the information. Only one other has sent a letter stating that the information is being compiled and will be sent. The other counties have sent what Adney referred to as almost identical letters asking for a more specific request, leading Adney to say: "There's obviously a coordinated effort to keep us from this information." "We're a small operation. There's just two of us here," he said, adding that "there's no way we could drive to each (location)" to obtain the contract information. So he sent new letters requesting a search of the miscellaneous indexes be done, hoping that the results would yield the contracts he wants. But he's expecting to get more refusals. "There are volumes of miscellaneous indexes," Mellem said. While she had not sent a reply to the second request, she added that the response would be similar to the first. There's a catch to the second request, though: the information along with all correspondence related to the request are being sought. "Basically we want to find out who and how this was organized against us," Adney said. To review the status updates, visit www.tsnroundup. com.