Tuesday, August 13, 2013

No objections from Council as City bestows special secrecy on candidates

GREENSBORO, NC -- The City of Greensboro has a public records request tracking system, PIRT, they call it: Public Information Request Tracking. It is supposedly for the purpose of tracking requests for city records.

It's a sham. A costly, time wasting, frustrating sham that has been perverted into a means of delay, bullying and intimidation imposed on a select few members of the public.

Only a small number of certain individuals' requests are entered into the tracking system, those mostly being some local bloggers, labor representatives and reporters from Yes!Weekly—whom the City previously tried to stop from publishing with a secret lawsuit (the City lost).

People who escape the tracking of the PIRT system and have their requests answered without being monitored include:
  1. Elected representatives, including members of city council
  2. Professional media (excluding Yes!Weekly)
  3. Lawyers
  4. Engineers and architects  
  5. Real estate and business people
  6. Former city employees
City Manager Denise Turner-Roth goes one step further and heaps extra scrutiny on the few people entered into the PIRT system by publishing their names and the information they requested in a memo that she sends to city council, city staff, community bigwigs and local media every Friday.

Until recently, the Manager's weekly memo included the requests of challenger city council candidates, people like George Hartzman (mayor), Ben Holder (at-large) and Sal Leone (district 5), but not the requests made by incumbent candidates.

Now, in a mind-numbing exhibition of just how rudderless the City's management is in their approach to transparency, the City Manager has decided that, rather than level the playing field by including the requests made by sitting city council people in her weekly memo along with those made by challenging candidates, no candidate requests—challengers' or incumbents'—will be included in her weekly memo.

Think about that:

People elected to represent us and those seeking to represent us, the very people of whom we should expect the greatest transparency and accountability, are being given special privileges by the City Manager so that they may avoid scrutiny. She is wrapping a special cloak of secrecy around their interactions with city government while continuing to subject a small group of other citizens to extra attention.

As astonishing as all of that is, the real kicker is that all of our elected representatives on city council, every single one of them, is aware of and has voiced no public objection to this practice. Remember that the next time you hear a city council person talk about how important government transparency is to them.

I asked to be afforded the same courtesy the City Manager has provided to candidates: to have my records requests excluded from the Manager's weekly memo, I was told that privilege is only for candidates. Yes, I was specifically told that the special cloak of secrecy is only for those who do or may represent us.

Worth noting is that mayoral candidate George Hartzman expressed his objection to the policy quite vociferously. As he wrote in an email to City Council about his requests being removed from the Manager's weekly memo:
"I most certainly did not ask to have candidate requests hidden, as it would contradict the transparency theme of my campaign. I advocated for all requests, including those from incumbents, be included."



4 comments:

sal leone said...

I agree that those that are on council and those seeking a seat should both have their PIRT published. I have a problem when only one side is required.

The public has a right to know what their elected or to be elected council are doing, its called a free country. This country was built on a free political system.

I have a plan if I am elected to Dist 5, its called an open form of government. I plan on having a website where I can communicate with my people of district 5. I want to know what they are thinking and need. I hate the current system where you email council, lucky if you get a response, does council really read them, NO.
I plan on making a motion that anything we request from staff as a PIRT will be made public. The reason being, KEEP PEOPLE HONEST

Glenwood said...

Greetings!~

This is exactly why people must give me 1 of their 3 At Large votes. I assure you that nobody will end silly procedures (like the one Roch examined above) faster than me. I have a lot of experience with helping city staff do their jobs more efficiently with the people's best interest in mind. This type of silliness is Denise's trade mark.

Roch Smith, Jr said...

The above is Ben Holder, candidate at-large, and I can attest to his contribution to improving the functioning of the City. Indeed, one department head even credited him with "impeding their inabilities."

Keep up the good work, Mr. Holder.

Glenwood said...

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

Ben Holder

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