If you’re a journalist, ask yourself this question: How frequently do you send FOI requests? Once a month? Twice a month? Four times a month?
Would 25 in eight months – so between three or four a month – seem excessive? Not to me it doesn’t.
But for the clerk at Arlesey Town Council, Elsie Hare, not only was it was excessive to receive 25 FOI requests from local resident – and therefore contributor to her salary – Mark Newbury, that she rang the police.
An email sent to Mr Newbury from Mrs Hare, seen by the Comet, said: “Dear Mark, my answers to your emails never seem to please you, so I suggest you ring me at the office as your questions are never clear.
“Furthermore, this is to inform you that I have spoken with the police at lunchtime today concerning the continuous number of emails you send to me. I have reported you for harassment. In their investigations the police will also include any others that are putting you up to such behaviour.”
Luckily for Mr Newbury, the police didn’t exactly send the blues and twos charging round to his home:
Mr Newbury contacted the police to confirm if he was being investigated. He said: “I had a conversation with a police officer about the whole thing for about an hour and they confirmed that a crime wasn’t committed.
“I have only requested information about the council’s finances and can’t understand why she would report me to the police for that because it should be public knowledge.
“It’s not even like I sent loads of emails – it’s on average about one every two weeks, that’s hardly harassment.”
The Comet tried to get a comment from Mrs Hare, but she declined.
It’s not been reported whether Mr Newbury has since had his FOI request answered.
And to think I thought it was annoying when an FOI officer threatens to call you vexatious.