|(March 17, 2017, 10:00 p.m.) -- On December 14, 2016, LBREPORT.com sought records (correspondence, emails, memos, texts and the like) under the CA Public Records Act related to JetBlue Airways or a federal customs facility and/or international flights at LB Airport in the office of former 5th district Councilmember Gerrie Schipske. Ms. Schipske is now an announced write-in candidate for the 5th Council district in the upcoming 2018 election cycle but hasn't taken a public position on the polarizing customs facility, and when she was in office, she didn't tell the public what Airport management told the Council it was doing in the latter half of 2013 (entering the 2014 election cycle) as management prepared to bring the customs facility to future Council consideration. (Schipske wasn't alone; then-Vice Mayor/Mayoral candidate Robert Garcia also remained mum entering the 2014 election cycle.)
On February 14, 2017, the City's Records Coordinator office informed us by email that "City staff has checked with both the Office of Council District 5 and the City's Technology Services Department searching for emails of former Council Member Schipske between the time frame of 2013-14. All parties that were contacted indicated that they did not have any such records because Schipske’s electronic mailbox was deleted 30 days after her term ended."
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In 2006 -- ironically at the urging of then-newly-elected Councilwoman Schipske -- the City Council enacted an explicit ordinance on preserving such public records after Schipske discovered that her outgoing predecessor had destroyed 5th district Council office records in exiting the office. That 2006 ordinance is now the law in the City of Long Beach and provides:
LB Municipal Code section 1.28.010 All documents prepared, received or maintained by the office of the Mayor, City Councilmembers, by any elected City official, and by the head of any City Department, are the property of the City. The originals of these documents shall be maintained consistent with State law and the records retention policies of the City as set forth in the City Charter, and by administrative regulation." [The administrative regulation is attached here for reference.]
We notified the City Prosecutor's office of what we encountered, requested that it take action(s) it deems appropriate and assumed it was an isolated incident. But on March 13, the PressTelegram ran a story bylined to reporter Courtney Tompkins who (with reporter Andrew Edwards) had sought email correspondence related to the Queen Mary and the city's now-retired economic and property development director. Ms. Tompkins mentioned in her PT story that "officials said all communication was deleted one month after he retired in August."
Within hours of learning this, LBREPORT.com emailed Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais, brought to his attention what LBREPORT.com had encountered, noted what the PT separately reported it encountered, and cited the City ordinance above. Our email stated in pertinent part: "LBREPORT.com is considering reporting the deletion of the email box deletions as a newsworthy matter. In that context, does the City Attorney's office have any statement(s) or comment(s) for publication?"
Later that same day (March 13), Mr. Mais replied, "Let me look into it and I will get back to you." We don't take this as a brush-off, because when Mr. Mais has said this on other occasions, he does indeed get back to us...but as of 6:00 p.m. on Friday March 17, we've heard nothing...and accordingly we are reporting here what has taken place as newsworthy.
And finally: on March 15, we emailed City Attorney Charles Parkin asking that his office "take immediate affirmative measures to preserve and protect from further attempted erasure, deletion or spoliation any and all records potentially within the scope of the CA Public Records Act (CA Gov't code section 6250 et seq.)...The undersigned believes these records, including purportedly deleted email boxes, may reside in various locations or can be recovered, and that the City has a duty to preserve them from any further attempts at erasure, deletion or spoliation."
Further to follow.
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