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Alabama AG’s office flunks open government test, again

Rickey Stokes

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Posted by: RStokes
rstokes1450@gmail.com
3347901729
Date: Mar 27 2019 11:34 AM

Lucille Sherman set out to answer a question: Were midwives filling the gaps in rural healthcare, where hospitals can be an hour or more away and OB/GYN’s aren’t available to deliver babies?


Sherman is a national reporter with Gatehouse Media, which owns about 150 newspapers across the country, including the Tuscaloosa News, and she was particularly interested in Alabama, which legalized midwifery again last year and recently issued licenses to at least five midwives.


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Bettie Carmack, a lawyer with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, sent Sherman a form to fill out. Request forms for public records are not unusual, but this one was of a kind I’d never seen before, nor had Sherman and her editors.



First, the form required a $10 per hour research fee, with a minimum charge of $10, no matter if the research took an hour or five minutes.



This happens a lot.



Second, it required a minimum $50 per hour legal review fee, with a minimum charge of $50, no matter if the legal review took five minutes.



Sherman was looking at $60 with no clear limit for how high those fees could go.



Could it be $100? Maybe. Or $5,000? Who knows?


_____


And not only did Sherman have to agree to pay an unknown price, but she also had to waive rights to things like her homestead exemption if she refused to pay — because if she didn’t pay, they promised to sue her in a venue of their choosing.



AG Freedom of Information Form by Rickey Stokes on Scribd



“She told me you can file a lawsuit if you want addresses,” Sherman said.


I wrote Carmack to find out who the heck came up with this form.


“I did,” she wrote back.


I then wrote to Carmack to give her an opportunity to answer a long list of questions for this column.


She declined to do so.




Alabama AG’s office flunks open government test, again

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