Here is the text of my remarks and the video, which includes commentary by city council and the City Manager.
Tonight, I am here to bring to your attention an example of the harmful consequences of the city of Greensboro's climate of obfuscation and hostility towards transparency.
In July of last year, I requested all records documenting access by anybody to city surveillance cameras for a one-week period.
Rather than receiving copies of any kind of contemporaneous original records, I received a document obviously created in response to my request. A fake.
Although my request was officially closed, I reminded city staff that I had requested all records of anybody accessing surveillance cameras and requesting an explanation for why I had been provided a manufactured record. I had to ask three times. After my third request, I received a reply.
"The information listed is the names of the security guards who have access to view live and archive video from surveillance cameras thru out the city facilities."
For the sake of time, I must quickly summarize what happened over the next several months. My pursuit of the records I had originally requested was stonewalled at every turn. At various times, I was mislead, intimidated and ignored.
It became very frustrating.
For months on end, the City stood by their story, insisting that only security guards were authorized to access surveillance cameras and that I had been provided an accurate record of surveillance camera access.
I was even given this list, presented to me as those people authorized to access surveillance cameras. As you can see, it is a list of fourteen people.
After seven months of city stonewalling, six months after my request was officially closed, I finally received a copy of an original record recording access to surveillance cameras.
It did not match the manufactured record I originally received, the one that was described as recording access by security guards because only security guards had access to surveillance cameras, supposedly. Instead, the real record showed people other than security guards accessing surveillance cameras.
So I asked for the log files for a longer period of time for a better idea of the extent to which City staff were watching surveillance cameras. What I found was shockingly different from what the City had said for month about who was accessing surveillance cameras.
Instead of the fourteen authorized users, log files showed well over fifty people accessing city surveillance cameras. Who?
According to the City's human resources department, those included not only security guards, but laborers, mechanics, and tax collectors -- over 50 people with various positions other than security guards.
It gets worse:
The City could not identify 21 of the people who the log files showed accessing surveillance cameras.
That's bad. But incredibly...
Two of the people recorded as having accessed city surveillance cameras are identified by the City's Human Resources as having long since retired and being deceased.
- Why was I provided a manufactured record instead of a copy of an actual record?
- Why are people not authorized to do so, logging into surveillance cameras?
- Who are the people logging in that the city could not identify?
- Who was logging in using the names of deceased city employees?
- When is city council going to get serious about changing the culture of secrecy and hostility towards transparency that exists in city government?