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    Breaking / Exclusive

    Councilwoman Schipske's Staff Says Virtually All 5th Dist. Council Office Files & Records Removed Prior To Her Taking Office

    (July 28, 2006) -- has been advised that virtually all city files and records -- hard copy documents, digital computer files, memoranda and records (including public records) -- were removed from the 5th district City Council office formerly occupied by Jackie Kell prior to the arrival of newly elected Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske.

    "We found the office virtually devoid of files and records, both in the City Hall 5th district Council office and the ELB field office (on Studebaker Rd)," said Joy Janes, Chief of Staff to Councilwoman Schipske. Ms. Janes indicated these included hard copy documents...and computer files appear to have been wiped clean as well. "We found a bound copy of the city budget, some bound reports, but basically nothing else," Ms. Janes said.

    Councilwoman Schipske took office on July 18 after defeating Kell in a multi-candidate April election and June runoff (in which Kell sought a third term as a write-in candidate under term limits).

    The issue came to our attention after we spotted an item agendized by Councilwoman Schipske for the August 1 Council meeting. The agendizing memo doesn't explicitly mention the circumstances regarding the 5th district Council office...but requests a report to the City Council from the City Clerk and City Attorney within 30 days on the feasibility of adopting the CA Secretary of State's Local Government Record Management Guidelines for all elected officials and City departments; and amending the Municipal Code to require that public records survive the transition of elected officials and to provide specific penalties for failure to comply.

    Public Records Should Survive the Transition of Officials:

    Elected officials, including the Mayor and City Council, City Attorney, City Prosecutor, and City Auditor receive, generate and/or maintain correspondence/subject files during their terms in office. These files contain documents incoming and outgoing letters, memoranda, faxes, notes and their attachments, in any physical format .including, but not limited to, paper and electronic format.

    For the sake of continuity of local government, all documents prepared, received, or maintained by the Office of the Mayor and by any elected city official should be considered the property of the City of Long Beach. The originals of these public records that pertain or are within the subject matter jurisdiction of their duties should be maintained by the City of Long Beach, consistent with a written retention policy approved by the City Council and the City Attorney. Such public records should not be destroyed nor removed from the office of the outgoing officials.

    The impact of the removal and/or destruction of the public records of elected officials who are vacating office include:

    1. Increased costs associated with the hiring of additional staff by incoming elected officials in order to research and replicate data and information necessary to provide continuity in representation and/or fulfillment of legal responsibilities to citizens;

    2. The loss of representational continuity;

    3. The loss of historical record related to the specific elected office; and

    4. The inability of citizens to access all public records.

    Responding to our telephone request for response, City Attorney Bob Shannon offered a quick reaction:

    "The matter has been drawn to my attention. I have been told that when Councilwoman Schipske arrived, there were no records in the office." City Attorney Bob Shannon added that he didn't have all the facts at hand...and he's prepared to look into the issue if requested by the City Council on Tuesday or on his own. is working to gather additional information on this breaking story.

    Further reaction is pending as we post. Developing.

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