Amherst resident turns to GoFundMe to raise $1K in effort to access communications of town officials


Staff Writer
Friday, January 20, 2023

AMHERST — A resident seeking a variety of communications from town officials over the past several months is providing the town the money to begin the process of getting text messages, rather than appealing to the state’s supervisor of public records or going to Superior Court.

Vira Douangmany Cage, a former member of the School Committee and a candidate for Town Council in 2021, said Friday that she made a $300 payment to the town clerk, as the town’s records access officer, “to get the ball rolling in fulfilling my complete records request.”

Cage is asking for all emails, texts and other written correspondence between Town Council President Lynn Griesemer and the town’s Police Department since July 5, when officers responded to a late-night gathering of youths on Main Street. Cage also has requested similar communications between Griesemer and her fellow councilors during the last two months of 2022.

Earlier, Town Manager Paul Bockelman said it was uncertain the cost for doing this, but that Griesemer would have to turn over her cellphone to a private company handling the extraction of data. The $300 was the initial fee.

Cage has launched a GoFundMe titled “Raise money for local records” that has gotten $600 of a $1,000 goal. In that appeal, Cage explains she is seeking information related to the councilors’ December listening sessions with police officers “that weren’t publicly posted and planned in such a way as to evade transparency, quorum, the public and the press.”

Cage is already beginning to receive a trove of documents from Town Hall related to her other request for emails.

Some of the correspondence between councilors is about mundane topics, such as one email from At-Large Councilor Andy Steinberg to Griesemer suggesting that all councilors be in the Town Room, rather than attending remotely, for an action by the Amherst Pelham Education Association in November, and about setting times for meetings of council committees.