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Letter to the Editor

Questions about FOIA questions

October 12, 2011 - Dear Editor,

I am very disturbed by facts presented by Ssuperintendent Dr. Rod Rock at the Sept. 26 Clarkston School Board meeting.

Clarkston resident Dawn Schaller submitted nine Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Clarkston Community Schools since 2010. She received 4,760 pages of materials for six requests fulfilled to date at an estimated cost of more than $1,200 to the district. Although Mrs. Schaller has paid $886.08 of those costs, the district and the taxpayers eat the rest. I don't like the taste of that.

Even more disturbing is the apparent partnership between Mrs. Schaller and Sherman Publications, owner of The Clarkston News. Editor Phil Custodio participated in Mrs. Schaller's review of documents pertaining to her first FOIA request at the administration building.

Dr. Rock presented evidence Sherman Publications paid for one of Mrs. Schaller's FOIA requests. I spoke with Dr. Tommy Thomason, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University and expert on community journalism. He has never heard of a community newspaper paying for a private citizen's FOIA request. It seems hidden agendas also make strange bedfellows.

While Mrs. Schaller certainly has the right to examine public information, the length and breadth of this pursuit without any evidence of wrong-doing is simply a waste of the taxpayers' money and the school district's time. She's fishing, plain and simple, and the hometown newspaper has swallowed her story hook, line and sinker. The Clarkston News has frequently published Mrs. Schaller's vague allegations and opinions opposing district actions without evidence to support her claims. A quick search of The Clarkston News website shows Mrs. Schaller has been quoted or used as a source 24 times in the past 18 months in stories and editorials relating to the school district.

Jim Sherman owes his readers and the citizens of Clarkston answers. Why are you paying for the FOIA requests of a private citizen and supporting her unsubstantiated allegations? Did you reimburse Mrs. Schaller or anyone else for her other FOIA requests, which were paid with cash and personal checks?

What is the relationship between Dawn Schaller and The Clarkston News? Will you be transparent with your practices, as you are demanding of the school district?

It's time for Dawn Schaller and Sherman Publications to be up front about their motives and actions. If there are findings that support alleged misconduct or misappropriation of funds, then publish it.

If nothing concrete has come from 18 months, nine FOIA requests and nearly 5,000 pages of documents, then it's time to stop chasing conspiracy theories and let our school administrators return to the business of educating our students.

Kelli Horst, president

Clarkston PTA Council

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