Meet Kathy Barnes, our 24th Sunshine Troublemaker of the Week. Kathy lives in Albertville, Alabama. She is the 1st Alabama resident to win the coveted and increasingly prestigious STOTW award.
Albertville is in Marshall County, Alabama. On May 1, Barnes asked for a variety of county records. For example, she wanted copies of citations issued by the county under its junk ordinance.
Havoc and panic set in upon the county receiving the request. The county issued a letter to Ms. Barnes saying her reason for asking was “insufficient” although under Alabama’s open records law, a request can only be denied if the motive is deemed to be “purely speculative or from idle curiosity.”
Most likely, when Ms. Barnes asked for information about payroll records for junk ordinance enforcement officers and “bid information for commissioner vehicles”–that’s the vehicles owned by the county and used by the county commissioners who denied the request–she was stepping way, way over that line.
County administrator Nancy Wilson defended their response to Barnes, saying, “We are going to get Ms. Barnes what she wants, but we have to also be aware that there are some things that are not for public access. In order to protect the rights of the rest of the public, we have to be sure it’s OK.”
Copies of junk ordinances? Citations written? Bids on vehicles owned by the county?
Citizens of Marshall County, unite.
One last thought. The commissioners and paid staff of Marshall County seem to be united in the opinion that Ms. Barnes is just trying to make them look bad. In that, she has surely succeeded.
Kathy Barnes, welcome to the storied ranks of the few, the proud, the STOTWs.