TORRINGTON – The Wyoming Legislature took a major step in ensuring that the public has easy access to public records during this year’s legislative session, but government entities around the state are struggling to figure out the best way to implement the new regulations.
The legislature decided that local governments should appoint one employee as the point of contact for public record requests. There was no change to what records are accessible, but the change will require governments and their agencies to review the way public records are stored and the protocol for viewing them.
During the Goshen County Commission meeting on May 21, Goshen County Clerk Cindy Kenyon and the commission discuss what the new law could look like in Goshen County. Kenyon told the commission that a lot of counties around the state have adopted of form of Teton County’s resolution.
“The Teton resolution included a clause that said each department head retains ownership of records, and they decide how those records are to be released,” Kenyon said. “ The point of contact is a tracking person to make sure everyone complies with the statute.”
Ken yon said she had pitched the idea to Goshen County Attorney Eric Boyer, and that the Teton clause is picking up steam around the state.
“I sent Eric a brief sketch of a form we could use,” Kenyon said. “Some counties have used clerks, part of them are using someone in the county attorney’s office, that’s about how much I know. I have seen a few of the resolutions because clerks discuss that kind of stuff. The clause from Teton County is becoming more and more popular.
“It has been decided in some counties, and in some it hasn’t. It seems like it’s mostly clerks and attorneys being appointed.”
Kenyon said the records for all of the county entities housed in the Goshen County Courthouse are already accounted for. Chairman Wally Wolski said the county is try to find the best way to get smaller boards, such as rural fire districts, in line with the statute.
“It applies to all of our fire districts and fire departments,” Wolski said. “They all have to have a point of contact. My idea is to be proactive in the way we look at it and set up a mechanism in advance so somebody doesn’t get hung out to dry by not doing something down the road.”
Some districts already house their records with Kenyon at the courthouse, but issues could arise in smaller townships, like Lingle and LaGrange, who would have to appoint their own point of contact.
“There is statute that says if you do not have a public place for records to be kept that is open for viewing at least 20 hours a week, those records can be stored at the clerk’s office,” she said.
“That is fine. I have stuff coming in all of the time, but I’m not going to be able to fulfill all of the public record requests, for example, the town of LaGrange needs to appoint someone.
“It’s a good idea, this public records person, but it’s a very confusing thing. I don’t have every single record for everything.”
Goshen County is not the lone county looking for a solution. Wolski said Goshen will keep working on finding the right way to handle the records before a resolution is passed.
“This law may sound like it’s a really good deal, but it’s pretty darn complex,” Wolski said. “All its going to take is somebody to ask for stuff and not get it, and somebody is going to end up in a lawsuit.
“I just don’t want to somebody to get hung out to dry because they didn’t do something and they weren’t aware they had to do it.”