(August 2, 2006) -- On August 1, the City Council voted 8-0 (O'Donnell absent) to approve an item brought by 5th district Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske seeking a City Clerk/City Attorney report on the feasibility of applying the CA Secretary of State's Local Government Record Management Guidelines to LB officials and amending the Municipal Code to require that public records survive the transition of elected officials (with penalties for failure to comply).
The action follows revelations first reported by LBReport.com that virtually all files in the 5th district Council office were gone (hard copy files apparently physically discarded, computer files digitally deleted) as Schipske began her term of office on July 18.
LBReport.com followed-up with response/comment from former Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Jackie Kell, whom Schipske outpolled as Kell waged a write-in campaign to retain office under term limits.
On August 2, Councilwoman Schipske emailed a letter on the matter to LB media outlets, including LBReport.com, the salient portions of which we post below.
Let's get this straight. At no time did I witness Jackie Kell doing anything regarding 5th District documents. I visited her office -- a few days before I was sworn in -- for 15 minutes in order to check out the size of the office for purposes of ordering furniture. This was not a scheduled meeting -- but an impromptu drop by so that I could determine furniture dimensions.
By coincidence, Kell walked into the office at the time I was there.I had two other people with me at the time and at no time did anyone witness Kell or her staff throwing anything away. I said "hello" to Kell who proceeded to show me how to fill out a travel request and how to get reimbursed for expenses (she initiated the topic...).
At no time did Kell or her staff indicate she was "throwing away" anything. (Something she certainly should have done in order to give me an opportunity to review what was subsequently trashed.)
She ended her explanation of how to fill out a travel request form and I left the downtown office. The next day, I visited the field office and spoke briefly with her aide, and asked if she could leave me information on any constituent requests. The aide responded that "that will be up to the Vice Mayor."
Several days later, upon being sworn into office and legally entitled to occupy the 5th Council offices, my staff and I discovered that every file and document had been removed from both the downtown office and field office. Additionally, databases were removed from the 5th Council computers...
Public records received, maintained and generated by public officials belong to the City of Long Beach and to the public.
Since Kell's departure, my office has received correspondence and phone calls from constituents referring to "their file" that they assume was passed along to me. These documents are not retained by any other City department because they were not generated by a city department -- but by residents. Additionally, any correspondence generated by Kell to constituents would not have been retained by the city departments if a copy was not sent to them.
The City does have a tracking system for infrastructure complaints through the NATS system. (The system, however, does not track complaints and requests for other issues; that is done in the council office.) My staff has requested that the City Manager recreate those files - which will take additional time and staff. Moreover, my staff is in the process of contacting each and every City Department to determine if there are any files pertaining to the 5th District so that we can obtain a copy. Again, this is time consuming and costly.
This should not occur again in the transition of public officials and that is why I requested that the City amend the municipal code accordingly.