Franklin stalls response on MPA’s FOIA request

Blythewood Mayor Bryan Franklin | Photo: Barbara Ball

BLYTHEWOOD – During a town council meeting on May 24, Mayor Bryan Franklin publicly criticized those town council members who he inferred were not complying with an FOIA (Freedom of Information) request submitted by the Country Chronicle on May 6, even though the responses to that FOIA request are not due until June 25.

Franklin, on the other hand, has stalled submission of his own response to an FOIA request issued only to him on April 15 by MPA Strategies. That response was due May 24. He has not replied to The Voice’s inquiries about his noncompliance with the law, and has, in fact, insisted publicly that he has complied.

On April 23, the town’s outside council, David Black with Nexsen Pruet, introduced another wrinkle in the evolving FOIA flap. Black wrote in an email to MPA’s attorney Joseph Dickey, “In terms of the electronic data you seek in relation to email and text, please be advised that the Town’s outside vendor, TCDI, charges $500 to pull email and text messaging from a device.”

Just a few days later, however the $500 charge was waived when the Country Chronicle submitted an FOIA request to all five councilmen, including the mayor, for certain documents pertaining to MPA Strategies.

While Franklin has said publicly that he submitted his devices to the TCDI representative on May 24 to pull his email and text messages, those documents have so far not been turned over to MPA Strategies as required by law, according to Dickey.

In addition, according to recent information from Black, Franklin’s responsive documents may not have been processed by the TCDI system at all.

“We’ve now been told [by Black] that it [Franklin’s device(s)] can’t be processed fast without doing all [council members’] devices,” Dickey wrote in an email to The Voice on June 15. He also said he was told that the TCDI vendor is backed up.

That would indicate that the TCDI vendor may not, in fact, have processed documents from Franklin’s devices as Franklin has indicated has been done and, further, it would indicate that TCDI cannot process documents FOIA’d by the Country Chronicle from all five council members’ (including the mayor’s) until it can also process, at the same time, those documents FOIA’d by MPA Strategies from Franklin. Yet, there is no explanation from Black as to why, technologically, this would be the case. And there is no provision in the FOIA statute that would allow Franklin’s documents that were FOIA’d by MPA Strategies to be withheld past the May 24 deadline for the convenience of being processed at the same time as the documents FOIA’d by the Country Chronicle.

The five council members are not required by law to use the services of a TCDI system to submit their responsive documents. Two councilmen have said they may choose to submit their responsive documents the way they are generally produced by governments…by printing out and handing over the documents or electronically transferring them.

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