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Griswold v. Homer City Council

Supreme Court of Alaska

September 13, 2013

FRANK GRISWOLD, Appellant,
v.
HOMER CITY COUNCIL, Appellee.

Rehearing Denied Oct. 24, 2013.

Page 939

Frank Griswold, pro se, Homer, Appellant.

Thomas F. Klinkner, Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before: FABE, Chief Justice, WINFREE, STOWERS, MAASSEN, and BOLGER, Justices.

OPINION

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Frank Griswold made a public records request for emails related to a public bond proposition. The City of Homer eventually produced all of the emails requested, except for privileged emails and deleted emails that could not be recovered without expensive software. We conclude that there was sufficient record support for the superior court's decision that the city manager used " good faith and reasonable effort" to comply with the request. And although Griswold complained that the Homer City Council failed to hold a hearing on this issue, the superior court allowed the parties to supplement the record, and thus, all parties had a meaningful opportunity to be heard.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In February 2008, the Homer City Council approved a bond proposition and issued an election brochure entitled " Questions & Answers about Homer Town Square and the New City Hall." Homer resident Frank Griswold filed a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, alleging that the brochure constituted the use of municipal funds to influence the outcome of a ballot measure without an appropriation ordinance in violation of AS 15.13.145. [1] The commission agreed with Griswold and fined the City $400.

Page 940

Griswold filed a public records request with City Manager Walt Wrede, requesting any documents relating to the brochure. Griswold believed the City's initial response to his request was inadequate and he filed a second public records request in April 2008. The second request sought emails sent to and from certain officials and contractors from January 1 through April 16, 2008. Wrede denied the request under City of Homer Regulation 2.07, which allowed the city manager to determine that a request was made for the purpose of harassment. Griswold appealed, and the superior court concluded that Wrede denied Griswold's request without providing adequate notice or opportunity to be heard.

Neither party took any action for months after the superior court reversed the manager's decision. In November 2009 Griswold moved to hold the City in contempt, and the superior court denied the motion, explaining that Griswold must either file a new request or renew his old request. In March 2010 Griswold notified Wrede that he wanted to renew his April 2008 records request. When Wrede responded, he noted that some emails were missing because, during the relevant time period, the City did not back up all incoming and outgoing emails. In a subsequent letter, Wrede informed Griswold that the City had retrieved all available emails that were responsive to Griswold's request.

In August 2010 Griswold appealed to the City Council, claiming that the manager had not fully complied with his request, that the email search was inadequate, and that the City had unlawfully failed to preserve public records. The Council performed an in camera review of emails that Wrede withheld as privileged and concluded that seven of those emails should have been produced. The Council also found ...


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