(July 28, 2006) -- Former Vice Mayor/5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell has acknowledged to LBReport.com that prior to her leaving office, documents from the 5th district Council office were removed -- "put in trash cans and taken out" -- in a process overseen by her...but insisted that 99% of these documents (removed prior to newly-elected Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske taking office) were constituent action files (requests for city service and the like).
The eight-year former ELB Council representative and spouse of former LB Mayor Ernie Kell said documents on [our term] substantive issues -- for example, airport related items -- would also be in city department files (City Manager, Airport bureau files, City Clerk, cc'd and the like).
She said the files removed from the 5th district Council office were reviewed by her and nearly all dealt with now-closed constituent cases, old newspaper articles and the like...and the remainder were duplicated in files of other city departments.
Of the documents "put in trash cans and taken out," former Councilwoman Kell said virtually 99% were on constituent-related issues...and the remainder on [our term] substantive issues would also be in the files of the City Manager, City Manager departments or City Clerk.
In a second, confirmatory conversation, Councilwoman Kell acknowledged to us that she had no files or documents; they are all gone.
She told LBReport.com, "I personally looked at every single file. For records of what happened on a day-to-day basis [constituent type matters], there's no reason to keep those, especially if it's quite old or has been settled," Kell said. She added, "If it's an issue of any importance whatsoever, something other than a constituent issue, it's [duplicated] in a departmental file."
As for pending constituent matters, former Councilwoman Kell said those are in a City Hall Note Assignment Tracking System (an internal City Hall system). She said newly elected Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske was showing her inexperience...and blundered by not retaining at least some of Kell's former staffers or others familiar with how City Hall operates.
"[Newly-elected 3d district] Councilman Gary DeLong kept some of Frank's [Colonna] former staff, and Suja [Lowenthal] can always turn to her mother in law [Bonnie Lowenthal]," former Councilwoman Kell said. "The staff I retained [from former Councilman Les Robbins] had all worked for other Councilmembers and were familiar the process of how issues are resolved."
Reached for comment today, Councilman DeLong told LBReport.com that he found the files of the 3rd district office of exiting Councilman Colonna in businesslike order...and added that he had a seamless transition by retaining some of former Councilman Colonna's staffers.
Also reached for comment today, the office of newly-elected City Auditor Laura Doud said through a spokeswoman that it had concerns about the lack of a City Charter provision dealing with records of transitioning officeholders.
Former Councilwoman Kell said incoming Councilwoman Schipske's staff was present on Monday July 17 [Kell's last day in office] "and saw us emptying constituent files." She added that her staffers "left pens, tape, supplies and a stack of things [for Councilwoman Schipske] to start reading."
In wrapping up telephone conversation, we told former Councilwoman Kell that in our opinion, the documents she had removed were not hers to remove but were city documents. Councilwoman Kell replied that not all of them were public records [disclosable records] and "whether we choose to to keep constituent related matters is up to me and my staff."
Former Councilwoman Kell acknowledged that while on the Council she had voted on records retention-related items, publicly agendized items seeking permission to destroy city documents in keeping with the city's records retention policy but reiterated that "if the issue is of any importance, the document is in a department file."
Related coverage: Councilwoman Schipske's Staff Says Virtually All 5th Dist. Council Office Files & Records Removed Prior To Her Taking Office