SUNSHINE WEEK – TAX ASSESSORS
The Tax Assessor is a legislatively created position in each parish primarily responsible for enumerating, listing and assessing all property in the parish. The Tax Assessor is generally the guy everyone forgets about. Well, except for when your property taxes increase!!!
Our request to this elected office was narrowly tailored to the calendar, salary, expenses and staff within the office. Much like the various Clerks of Courts throughout the state we received a virtually identical boiler plate response from the Assessors asserting ‘Responsive documents in our possession are available for inspection and copying during regular business hours at our offices located at [FILL IN THE BLANK].’ This is no more of a response to our request for public records than it is a tactic being employed to set-up a defense for failing to provide the requested records. The position illustrated here is that if you wanted to see the documents all you must do is show up at our office and the records will be readily available.
We implore anyone with a little spare time to walk into any public office and request to see the calendar, salary, expenses and listing of staff for that elected office. What you are more likely to experience are remarks like… ‘that is not public record’, ‘you will have to come back’, ‘you must schedule an appointment’, ‘that will take a few hours to gather’, etc. That was our experience.
Those offices which we did elect to drop into “during regular business” hours to inspect public records most frequently informed us that the records were not readily available and it would take hours, or even days to get them together for review. This was despite having our request for a period of weeks prior to our arrival and after providing us with the “line” – ‘Responsive documents in our possession are available for inspection and copying during regular business hours at our offices located at [FILL IN THE BLANK].’
Did you know?
Each public body that has a custodian of public records shall make the contact information of the custodian available to the public in a manner that will allow a member of the public to quickly determine the appropriate person to whom a public records request should be submitted, including by placing such information on the internet.
TAX ASSESSORS: (LARS 47:1901)
The following four requests were sent to each of the following Tax Assessors:
- Individual appointment calendar of Assessor for the period of time of January 1, 2022 through January 31, 2022, including but not limited to: traditional hard copy calendars and electronically stored information on cell phone(s), computer(s) and/or other electronic devices.
- Expenses reports or listing of expense reimbursements for Assessor for the period of time of January 1, 2022 through January 31, 2022 OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE; any and all documents of expense reimbursements for Assessor for the period of time of January 1, 2022 through January 31, 2022.
- Compensation received by Assessor for the calendar year of January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2021, including but not limited to salary, salary augmentation, stipends, vehicle subsidies, cell phone subsidies, insurance benefits, etc.
- List of all Deputy Assessors and other individuals employed by your office.
The Tax Assessors were then graded based on ten objective factors with each being worth one point, for a maximum score of ten points. Below is how the governing bodies ranked after the passage of at least thirty days from the date of the request.
Have the public bodies made information regarding how to request public records readily available and easy to find (i.e. website, etc.)?
- 2% 2%
Did the public bodies acknowledge the receipt of the public records request or provide any exemptions within three days?
- 89% 89%
Did the public bodies produce the records for inspection or provide an estimate of time reasonably necessary for production within five days of the request?
- 32% 32%
Did the public bodies accept the e-mailed requests without a demand that it be presented on a particular form, in a particular format or submitted in an alternative fashion?
- 100% 100%
Did the public bodies accept the request without demanding that a state issued identification card be provided?
- 100% 100%
Did the public bodies refrain from inquiring about the purpose of the requests?
- 100% 100%
Did the public bodies respond without employing an attorney to respond?
- 93% 93%
Were the records or information made available free of charge and/or without a request for a deposit?
- 89% 89%
Were the records or information made available by electronic means or did the custodian indicate the records could be copied using a portable scanning device?
- 42% 42%
Were the records provided by the public bodies responsive to the requests and of good quality?
- 44% 44%