FOI required to view Ridgeway audit

RIDGEWAY – The Town of Ridgeway audit for the year ending June 30, 2021 has been completed, and the bound audit document handed out to the town’s council members by Mayor Heath Cookendorfer at the April 14 town council meeting. But that audit was not reviewed publicly at the meeting and is not being made available to the pubic without a formal Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The next day, April 15, The Voice reporter emailed Cookendorfer, copying council members, to ask for a copy of the audit report.

“Since the audit was not presented to the public at last night’s Ridgeway Council meeting,” the email stated, “is it ok for me to stop by the office today and pick up a copy?”

Cookendorfer had previously stated that that the town clerk was not allowed to provide information to the media or to certain other individuals, and that all media questions must now come through the mayor. He also stipulated that he would need at least 24 hours to answer the questions because he might have to get the answers from the town clerk or others.

Later on Friday, Cookendorfer answered the Voice’s email.

“You [sic] request has been received. Once Town Hall receives your formal paperwork for FOIA we will begin fulfilling our request. Town Hall will notify my [sic] on the charge to reproduce the documents and send over an invoice,” Cookendorfer wrote.

The Voice was advised by Media Attorney Jay Bender that, “If the audit was distributed at a meeting it must be made available to the public.”

Bender further stated that by asking to inspect the original audit document, as the law entitles, you can’t be charged copy costs.

The Voice responded to Cookendorfer with a request to inspect the audit document at no charge.

Ignoring the law, Cookendorfer insisted that The Voice would be required to pay to inspect a copy.

“As mentioned in my previous email,” Cookendorfer responded, “this is a FOIA request and the documents are needing to be copied. This would mean that a cost would be required to do so. Also, a formal FOIA request would need to be filled out before we could even start the process,” he wrote.

The Voice complied with a formal FOIA to the town clerk with copies to the mayor and all council members.

“Pursuant to the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, Sec. 30-4-30, The Voice of Fairfield County formally requests to review the Town’s copy of its audit for the year ending 6/30/2021.

“Please let me know when I can come to Town Hall to review the document. Because the document does not have to be copied for me to review it, I believe there would be no charge.”

As of press time, The Voice has not received a response.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]