by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:
INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. - Proposed changes to the public records policy in Indian Trail are raising questions about government transparency.
Tuesday evening, the Town Council will vote on the proposal, which civil rights experts said could limit citizens' access to information.
"Governments that are not transparent usually have something to hide and that's why they're doing it," said former attorney Jim Gronquist, who was also the president of Charlotte's ACLU chapter.
Under the new policy, residents would have to prepay a 75 percent deposit for any records requests that could exceed $100.
Citizens and journalists who want to inspect certain records will also be limited to appointments of only two hours, unless otherwise pre-approved by the town.
If the information request is "not available in preprinted form," and requires extra work by the town clerk, anyone requesting the records will have to pay additional charges starting at $43 an hour, for each hour of the clerk's work.
"If it's a public record, no one should have to pay for it ... if the town clerk is hired by the town, it's her job to do this stuff," said Gronquist.
Eyewitness News brought some of those concerns to Indian Trail Mayor Michael Alvarez, who admitted some of the changes may be cost-prohibitive for some citizens.
"There are parts that seem concerning on the surface that have brought out more questions," Alvarez said.
Alvarez said he wants the town to be transparent and said the new policy needs to be consistent.
Alvarez cited "reckless requests" from a group of citizens in the past that he claimed have wasted time and taxpayers' dollars by putting undue pressure on town staff to fulfill the requests.
The Town Council will meet at 6:30 Tuesday night.
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