May 28, 2024 |

Photo – Dempsey’s Go Fund Me photo on Facebook – Courtesy Jimmy Dempsey

A Saratoga resident’s request for public information has led to a crusade to oust the town clerk. On March 15th, Saratoga resident Jimmy Dempsey emailed Town Clerk Jenn Anderson asking for the contact information for Public Works Director Emery Penner. Dempsey said construction near his home on the south side of town left the roads in an unacceptable condition and he wanted the town to clean it up.

Dempsey said Clerk Anderson refused to provide him with the direct email addresses of any town hall staff, such as the public works director and the mayor. Anderson offered to forward Dempsey’s emails to the appropriate person. Dempsey said he was not satisfied with that answer.

Dempsey took his case to Wyoming Public Records Ombudsman Charlotte Martinez, who was able to get the town to respond to the request. Dempsey expressed his disappointment with the way Town Clerk Anderson handled his records request.

Dempsey said on April 1st, he submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for publicly available information about town employees from the past year. Also included in his records request were copies of the town budget for the past two years and all ordinance violations which resulted in fines from the past year. Dempsey said Clerk Anderson quoted him $466 for the information.

Saratoga Resolution Number 2019-08 states, “the Town shall charge an applicant the reasonable costs of producing and constructing a copy of an electronic public record for inspection and copying.  This cost may include, but is not limited to, the time spent retrieving, compiling, sorting, reviewing, redacting, formatting, converting, or copying the electronic public record…”

The same ordinance sets the cost of office clerical work at $15.50 an hour.

Dempsey said receiving a copy of the ordinance violations was going to cost the most money. After removing that portion of his request, Dempsey said the price went down to $155.

The matter escalated when Dempsey, admittedly out of spite, attempted to pay the $155 bill in unrolled pennies. He said Clerk Anderson refused to accept 15,500 coins as payment for the information.

Dempsey said Anderson would not take the pennies unless they were counted at the local bank. The Saratoga resident refused to return to the bank with bags full of coins.

In an email to the town, Wyoming Public Records Ombudsman Martinez stated, “I do not condone Mr. Dempsey’s decision and understand your initial refusal to accept the payment.  Ultimately, it is the Town of Saratoga’s decision to release records or not. That being said, Resolution No. 2019-08, nor Saratoga’s Public Records Request Form, specify how payment needs to be made.  There is no information on what type of payment the Town will accept for public record requests.  I see no language in those two documents preventing Mr. Dempsey from paying in change.”

Dempsey admitted to not actually wanting the information he requested through the Freedom of Information Act. Since much of the information he asked for is available on the town’s website, Dempsey said was offended by the clerk’s quoted price.

Dempsey submitted his initial FOIA request on April 1st. The Wyoming Public Information Act gives municipalities 30 calendar days to comply with a request. The clerk’s refusal to take his payment has put the town over the legally mandated deadline, said Dempsey. The Saratoga resident is now calling for the removal of Clerk Anderson.

Dempsey took his beef with the town to the streets. The Saratoga Sun reports that, on April 22nd, Dempsey could be seen outside of town hall wearing a bright yellow coat and carrying a pink sign calling for Mayor Chuck Davis to remove Town Clerk Jennifer Anderson for “neglecting her duty.”

Bigfoot99 reached out to Mayor Davis for the town’s side of the story. The mayor said Town Attorney Kylie Waldrip advised him not to speak publicly about the matter.

Dempsey is not done with his crusade against Clerk Anderson. The Saratoga resident has set up a GoFundMe page to pay for a court case against the town. Titled “Support Jimmy’s Fight for Transparency,” Dempsey is seeking $50,000 to “pay for litigation against the town of Saratoga Wyoming”. As of the writing of this story, no one has donated to the fund.

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