Saratoga Won’t Take Local Man’s 15,500 Pennies As Payment For Records Request

A Saratoga man doesn’t believe his local government is being transparent with the public, so he put in a public records request. Then they charged him $155 for it. When he tried to pay for it with 15,550 pennies, they wouldn't accept it.

Leo Wolfson

May 08, 20249 min read

Saratoga resident Jimmy Dempsy was turned away when he tried to pay for his $155 public records request at town hall in pennies, 15,500 of them.
Saratoga resident Jimmy Dempsy was turned away when he tried to pay for his $155 public records request at town hall in pennies, 15,500 of them. (Courtesy Photo)

Saratoga resident Jimmy Dempsey doesn’t believe his local town government is being transparent with the public, so he put in a public records request for a list of the town’s official government email addresses.

Then the town said it wants to charge him $155 for the list and other information, which he considers outrageous. Nevertheless, he was willing to pay to fulfill the request.

So, Dempsey recently went to the Saratoga Town Hall with $155 — all in pennies, 15,500 of them.

“It’s cold, hard cash, it’s American pennies,” he said.

When Town Clerk Jennifer Anderson refused to accept the pennies as payment, Dempsey took to the streets, holding a protest outside Town Hall in April where he called for Anderson’s removal for alleged neglect of her duty and incompetence.

“She’s clearly corrupt,” he said. “If she’ll do it to me, she’ll do it to everybody.”

Saratoga Mayor Chuck Davis said he has no plans to fulfill Dempsey’s request to remove the town clerk.

“As long as I’m in this office as the elected mayor, the clerk is not going anywhere,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

Dempsey's biggest irritation with the town is the fact that no direct contacts — phone or email — are provided for any town employees or elected officials anywhere on the town’s website. The closest contact to this is a general town hall email and phone number.

Davis said there has been no purposeful intent to hide information from the public.

“We have tried to abide by everything with the law, we have nothing to hide,” he said. “We are following the federal guidelines on documents.”

The Records Request

Dempsey made a request with the town for a few different items in early April, originally amounting to a cost of $466 based on some questionable charges.

After dropping his part of the request for all ordinance tickets issued by the town resulting in a fine in the past year, that lowered the total cost of the request to $155.

In his records request, Dempsey requested email contacts, names, titles, and salaries for every Saratoga town official and person employed by the city over the last two years.

The town charged for two hours of labor for this work alone, costing $80.

Anderson said the reason this cost was so high was because Dempsey’s request included former employees whose personal emails she had to manually track down.

The town also charged for 1.5 hours of labor at a total cost of $60 for providing Dempsey with a copy of its budgets from the previous two years. Normally, this type of information is readily available to a town clerk.

Cowboy State Daily was able to find the town’s 2023/2024 budget on the town website in less than 5 minutes of searching.

The town of Saratoga adopted its current fee schedule for public records requests in 2019, which the Wyoming State Ombudsman confirmed is legal.

Wyoming law states that “the reasonable costs of producing a copy of the public record shall be borne by the party making the request. The costs may include the cost of producing a copy of the public record and the cost of constructing the record, including the cost of programming and computer services.”

A Passel Of Pennies

Outraged at the price, Dempsey decided to get a little payback.

He went to his local bank and withdrew $155 in pennies.

Stuffing the change into plastic bags, he carried the 15,500 pennies inside a black duffel bag that he presented to Anderson as payment for the records request.

Anderson refused to accept the change, saying she had no way of verifying that it was the correct amount of money.

“She told me I needed to go back to the bank and have them counted out,” he said. “That’s where I got them from in the first place.”

Neither Davis nor Anderson would comment to Cowboy State Daily about the refusal to accept the pennies as payment.

By refusing to accept payment for the records request, Dempsey asserts that Anderson has failed to meet the 30-day timeline under the Wyoming Public Records Act to produce the requested records.

“She should just provide me the information instead of making me go out of the way to get somebody’s contact,” he said.


Davis said there has been no purposeful intent to block the public from communicating with town officials and said the city is in the process of updating its website. After this work is done, he said there will be more contacts and other information provided on the website.

“It was the way it was done in the past, that’s the way it’s been,” he said. “That has not been a priority to fix.”

He also said his personal contacts were made widely available to the public during his 2022 mayoral campaign, but a cursory search on Google provided none of this information. Davis also said he’ll always return any message left for him at town hall.

“I will return anybody’s call,” he said.

He said the biggest reason why there aren’t any provided contacts for town council members is because the town does not provide professional emails to its councilors. He doesn’t expect this to immediately change as a result of the new website unless someone wants to put their personal email out, but said they will be able to be reached on individual numbers at town hall and through email request forms.

“If they respond to them, then they (member of the public) will have that person’s email address,” Davis said of the request forms.

Currently, if a member of the public wants to get a hold of a town councilor or city employee, their message can be forwarded on and/or a paper message will be delivered to a personal mailbox at town hall. Davis stressed that if someone visits, calls or emails Saratoga Town Hall, they will always be connected to whom they are trying to reach.

“They (city employee) would be notified if somebody wants to talk to them,” Davis said. “They will be contacted and they will always get a call back.”

But Dempsey counters that this is a cumbersome and untransparent way to conduct public business in the year 2024.

State Ombudsman Gets Involved

After having his payment rejected, Dempsey reached out to Wyoming Public Records Ombudsman Charlotte Martinez for assistance. As ombudsman, it’s Martinez's job to mediate public records disputes in Wyoming. She cannot make an official ruling in any disputes or force any party to take any action. Only a district court can do that.

In April, Martinez sent Anderson an email about the situation that Dempsey shared with Cowboy State Daily.

Although Martinez said she does “not condone Mr. Dempsey’s decision” and understands her refusal to accept the 15,500 pennies, she pointed out that nowhere in the town of Saratoga’s public records guidelines does it specify how payments must be made to the city.

“I see no language in those two documents preventing Mr. Dempsey from paying in change,” she writes.

However, Martinez said if the town does accept the change as payment, it should wait to release the records until all 15,500 pennies are counted.

Neglect Of Duty?

What made Dempsey particularly frustrated was that when he originally requested the email contacts for town employees from Anderson, he was first told he could call or email her and she would forward him on to a desired party. Dempsey believes Anderson should have told him to file a Freedom of Information Act request from the get-go to get the information he wanted.

“She pretty much went about everything backwards,” he said.

Because of this and her refusal to turn over the records, Dempsey said Anderson is neglecting her duty and should be removed by the mayor.

If Davis doesn’t remove the clerk, Dempsey said he should be removed too.

Some states require that local governments post on their website direct contacts for elected officials, but this is not required in Wyoming.

Still, the Saratoga situation is unusual as most Wyoming municipalities and counties offer at least one direct contact for their elected officials and leading staffers.

Vic Miller is a Cheyenne resident who has got into public records battles with the State of Wyoming and City of Cheyenne. Even though the Wyoming Supreme Court has opined that public officials should air on the side of transparency when it comes to releasing public records, Miller said this directive hasn’t been followed.

“It’s counterproductive for these people to try to hide information,” he said. “It just makes me want to file more requests to inflict pain on these people. We’re just asking them to do the right thing and treat us normally.”

The reason why Dempsey wanted the contacts originally was to get a hold of the town’s Public Works Department, which he said has been leaving mud in the road after it does work in his neighborhood.

“They’re not putting our tax dollars to work,” he said.

Davis said he told Dempsey to go to a Planning and Zoning meeting about this issue, which he said Dempsey did before filing his records request.

Leo Wolfson can be reached at

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Leo Wolfson

Politics and Government Reporter