Public Records (the mystery of child abuse and child protection)

February 6, 2016 in Child Death, Crime and Courts, Invisible Children, Politics and Funding, Public Policy by Mike Tikkanen

beautiful MN lake sceneMy story is triggered by a graphic demonstration of malfeasance by a public servant (Harper’s Magazine article below) and my response to conversations with Brandon Stahl at the Star Tribune and a former administrator at Hennepin County.  Both told me how inaccessible important child protection public records become when someone decides for no good reason to not share public records.

In my video interview with Brandon Stahl, he stated clearly how County Records that should have been available to him in the tortured death of Eric Dean were stonewalled, deliberately delivered over months instead of days or weeks, made expensive and hard to get in his reporting for the series he wrote for the newspaper.

Remember, the boy was dead and this reporter needed only to gather the history surrounding how the boy died.  The poor child deserved to have his story written.  We would be far worse off as a community and abused and neglected children would be facing a far worse future if Brandon had not written these stories.

My administration contact made it clear to me years ago that sharing information or creating an atmosphere of transparency was the last thing going to happen in social services in general and child protection specifically.  Yes, there are many practical sounding reasons for this but most of those reasons are specious and protect only the people not wanting the information out (Dee Wilson made this statement when he delivered the Casey Foundation’s report to the County Commissioners on Minnesota’s Child Protection Services – calling these excuses for a lack of transparency a “Red Herring”.

Below and linked above is the slow walk email correspondence of an administrator deliberately making it impossible for a reporter to gain access to what should be readily available public records.  It would be funnier if it happened in some third world country and not here.

ALL ADULTS ARE THE PROTECTORS OF ALL CHILDREN

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From messages between Shawn Musgrave, a reporter for MuckRock.com, and Kimberly Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, who defied an August 2015 court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This exchange regards open-records requests that Musgrave filed on September 1 and October 2, 2015. Davis met Pope Francis in late September, in Washington, D.C.

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to Kentucky Open Records Act, I hereby request the following records:

All emails sent to or by Rowan County Clerk Kimberly Davis from August 1, 2015, to the date this request is processed.

I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by email attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Sincerely,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Hello,

There are well over 6,000 emails received/sent during the time period you ask for. There will be considerable time and paper consumed in the processing of your request. I am estimating approximately forty hours of labor at $12.50 per hour to retrieve and print all emails, along with a fee of $0.10 per copy and the open-records $3 fee, plus postage for mail (estimated $100). This would make the approximate amount due $1,203. Once that amount is received, your request can begin to be processed.

Respectfully,

Kim Davis

 

Hello —

Is it possible to avoid copying time and fees by sending electronic copies of the emails?

Best,

Shawn

 

Dear Sir,

I have conveyed what was needed to process your request. Once you have sent the fees as indicated, your request will be processed.

 

Hello —

Please clarify why you are unable to provide electronic copies of electronic communications. The Kentucky public-records statute requires provision of documents electronically if a given agency is able.

Respectfully,

Shawn

 

Dear Mr. Musgrave,

I was trying to be fair, while I do retain the right, through the Kentucky Open Records Law, to refuse altogether, as it is an “overly burdensome request.”

Respectfully,

Kim Davis

 

Ms. Davis —

I may file a complaint with the state attorney general for excessive fees, as well as effective denial of my request by virtue of characterizing it as “overly burdensome.”

The statute indicates that I may request documents in the format in which they are stored. Does your agency store official emails in hard copy?

Respectfully,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Mr. Musgrave,

If you feel reviewing and printing well over 6,000 emails is not a burdensome task, I am sorry. I will be happy to complete your request for the fees discussed. I really don’t know how much more you expect from me.

Respectfully,

Kim Davis

 

Ms. Davis —

You have not answered the simple question of how your emails are stored.

I am willing to reduce the scope of the request so that your office has fewer emails to review. But more than half of your cost estimate is for printing and shipping hard copies.

Respectfully,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Mr. Musgrave,

Your offer to reduce the scope of your original request is greatly appreciated.

Naturally, we cannot proceed until we receive your new request.

Kim Davis

 

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to Kentucky Open Records Act, I hereby request the following records:

All emails sent to or by Rowan County Clerk Kimberly Davis from September 1 to the date this request is processed that contain any of the following keywords (please conduct a separate search for each): “Pope,” “Francis,” “Vatican,” “embassy,” “Washington, D.C.”

I would prefer the request filled electronically, by email attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Sincerely,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Mr. Musgrave,

I have two emails, if you like I will fax those to you. Please advise.

Thank you,

Kim Davis

 

Ms. Davis —

Yes, please send me the two emails that you indicate — as well as any other emails that contain the indicated keywords.

Please do not print them out and fax them to me.

Respectfully,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Shawn,

I already have them printed and am ready to fax, sorry. I am old-school on this email stuff. Please supply me with a fax number.

Kim

 

Hi Kim —

Please send all emails that fit my request in their original, electronic format.

Respectfully,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Ms. Davis —

As you’ve stopped replying to emails regarding my two open requests — both of which you initially acknowledged by email — I am reaching out by fax.

My preference is that you send these documents by email using the address that you already have. Any necessary correspondence regarding my requests would also be much, much easier to conduct via email than via fax or other means.

Respectfully,

Shawn Musgrave

 

Mr. Musgrave,

Your request has been fulfilled and put in the mail.

Thank you,

Kim Davis

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