Late last year, I published a commentary on the questionable policy implementation by the Scott County Board of Supervisors, at the request of staff, to indiscriminately destroy e-mails more than three years old, beginning January 2, 2014 (RCReader.com/y/email1).This new policy was implemented in the wake of Assistant County Administrator Mary Thee issuing a memo to county employees about the increase of public inquiries and litigation requesting e-mail messages.
In the spirit of practicing what I was preaching, namely getting one’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in before the January 2 date (despite the county administrator extolling that her staff has been practicing said deleting for some time), I submitted a FOIA request about a topic this paper has covered more extensively than any local news outlet: the Scott County Emergency Communications Center, a.k.a. SECC911. (See RCReader.com/y/foia1 and RCReader.com/y/foia2.)
Keep in mind that the SECC911 project is important because it was sold to the taxpayers as a cost-saver, only to have its costs more than quadruple the original estimates, ballooning to more than $20 million. And the entity that was created under a 28E, or “emergency services” statute, is made up of un-elected appointees, who possess unlimited, or un-capped, taxing authority. I am still amazed at how few people are familiar, let alone concerned, with this black hole that flies completely under the radar. And, lest we forget, years later we still don’t have a consolidated 911 dispatch service.
This request was e-mailed to the Scott County Board of Supervisors as well as Administrator Dee Bruemmer. Below is the text of that request, and the response from Assistant County Attorney Robert Cusack. For those paying close attention, yes, Cusack is the son of William Cusack, one of the supervisors this FOIA request was directed to.
Who do you think is responsible for the performance of elected representatives and the thousands of agencies/bureaucracies throughout local, state, and federal government? Who do you think is responsible for protecting your unalienable rights?
Perhaps it is you? I bristle at the endless complaining about politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate leaders’ under-performance, especially when coupled with unreasonable expectations that those folks make all the changes necessary to relieve our discontent.
Why on Earth should they when we choose not to do our own part in America’s governance? The old adage “Labor respects what management inspects” is no less true for We the People. We are the managers, and in today’s political and civic environment, the huge majority of us completely abdicate our personal duties and responsibilities required to live in a free and open society.
On December 19, the Scott County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the following language for the information-technology (IT) policy for county staff: “The IT Department will maintain a copy of all e-mails sent or received for a period of three years from the date in which they are sent or received. Records may be retained for a longer time period if it is subject to a litigation hold.”
A day earlier, I published an open letter to the board asking it to defer action. (See sidebar.) At the meeting, I was allowed to address the board prior to the vote, and the 14-minute audio recording of that exchange is available below.
Prior to the meeting, I had phone conversations with Chair Larry Minard and supervisors William P. Cusack and Carol T. Earnhardt. On these calls, it was explained to me that “all the important e-mails will be saved.” When asked about details – such as who will be determining what e-mails are important – the answers varied from department heads to staff to one or two county attorneys. When pressed what the criteria were for retention past three years, the answers included “We just have to trust staff to know what to do” to “The frivolous e-mails will go.” The policies of the State of Iowa and the City of Davenport were cited several times in these phone calls and at the meeting, but no particulars were given. The party line was that these entities destroy old e-mails much sooner than the county was proposing.
As Americans, we had better revisit what the Bill of Rights means to our country’s future, because the individual protections that the Bill of Rights provides each of us are in real jeopardy. There has been a slow creep by our legislative, judicial, and executive branches to erode these protections in favor of administrative rules and regulations that instead protect the growth and continuity of government.
The federal government has gone so far beyond what was originally intended for our republic that there will be no stopping it from the top down. The only hope we have to preserve our future as an open society is to get involved in our local county and city governments, including our school districts, where we can fully participate, oversee, and influence the politicians and bureaucrats who are our friends, family, and neighbors.
Common Core is the new national education initiative of curriculum and standards that were developed by two private trade groups, in cooperation with Achieve, Inc., with the majority of funding provided by the federal government. Additional financial assistance came from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli & Edythe Broad foundations, which contributed $60 million, and General Electric, which gave $18 million. The two trade groups’ names – the National Governors Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers – mislead the public into falsely thinking Common Core was developed by each states’ elected representatives.
Rather, the entire curriculum is privately owned and copyrighted, giving sole control over its content to a small cadre of developers, who will also reap massive profits for manufacturing all new Common Core-approved textbooks, training materials for teachers, and national-testing components that will dwarf previous testing practices in America. These no-bid contracts are worth billions to private and quasi-public corporations, such as Pearson, Core One Press, and Achieve.
Twenty years of questioning the status quo and providing readers with exhaustive resources and perspectives on all things cultural in the Quad Cities merits some reflection and review. We continue to publish the River Cities’ Reader because it is fulfilling and meaningful.
The Reader is independently owned and operated. It started as a monthly newsprint publication, with a regional circulation in Iowa and Illinois – from Galena to Iowa City to Cedar Rapids to Muscatine to, of course, the Quad Cities. After 20 issues, we reined in our distribution to the Quad Cities and immediate outlying areas. This was 1995, and we made the plunge to publish weekly and lived up to the promise of “Every Wednesday Everywhere” for 13 years. We starting publishing our content on the World Wide Web in 1996 at RCReader.com.