Sometimes it’s better not to be right, but the Rhino Times editorial, “Greensboro’s Public Records Policy Circumvents State Law” (which can be found here: https://www.rhinotimes.com/editorials/greensboros-public-records-policy-circumvents-state-law/) accurately describes how Greensboro’s Public Information Tracking (PIRT) policy prevents the public from receiving public documents.
The editorial notes that when the city, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to release a public document to the public, the PIRT administrator often responds that the “document doesn’t exist.”
In two cases brought to the attention of the Rhino Times this week, that is how the PIRT administrator responded.
In response to Amiel Rossabi of Rossabi Law Partners, who threatened legal action if he did not receive a response to his request for crime data that was made in January, the PIRT administrator responded, “Greensboro Police does not collect or compile data regarding violent incidents at locations described as exempt facilities. This data can be extracted from the documents provided.”
Rossabi responded by asking how Mayor Nancy Vaughan made statements about violent incidents and the city’s response to those incidents at “exempt” locations if the data doesn’t exist, and again asked for the data on which Vaughan based those statements.
Simply because the Police Department doesn’t have the information doesn’t mean that the information doesn’t exist somewhere in city hall, and if it does exist, it is a public record.
In another PIRT request made by mayoral candidate Eric Robert, the response is worse.
The Greensboro Coliseum Complex books shows for the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, owned by Wake Forest University. Robert put in a PIRT request for a copy of the contract that establishes this relationship.
The response from the PIRT administrator states, “In response to your public records request concerning a copy of contract and or agreement between the Greensboro Coliseum and the LJVM coliseum in Winston-Salem, the Greensboro Legislative Department responds, “The Legislative Department does not have anything pertaining to this PIRT request.’”
It is a fact that the staff at the Greensboro Coliseum books shows for the LJVM coliseum in Winston-Salem. Is the City of Greensboro actually claiming that this is a handshake agreement without a contract?
The “Legislative Department” is not the only department in the City of Greensboro. It seems likely that the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, which is also a department of the City of Greensboro, would have a copy of the contract. And wherever the contract resides, in city hall or at the Coliseum Complex, it is a public record.
These are just two more examples of how the Greensboro’s PIRT system is designed, not to provide public information to the public, but to prevent the public from having access to public information.
Our tax dollars- we the citizens of Greensboro have the right to know how they will be spent! Time for a new council and mayor!
This is great reporting. Thank you John Hammer
I agree, great work. Hope you look into other investigations on how the triad news and government handles public disclosure issues. Sometimes High Point, Greensboro and Winston Salem seems to be making backroom deals and are not transparent at all. A lot of money that’s granted or collected is never accounted for. They get money for one thing and end up spending it somewhere or seems to never materialize. Especially in High Point, no one investigate. For example does High Point give granted money to Greensboro or Winston downtowns because our downtown in High Point never does anything for it’s citizens but I am sure they get grants or collect certain taxes from the city, feds, and county. It’s been 50 years and nothing for ALL citizens of High Point and I am not talking about when the furniture market comes the owners and city should either use it or lose it LET IT BECOME MORE DIVERSE for the whole community besides working through temp companies twice a year, that’s RIDICULOUS. But after the furniture market they tell us what it makes in High Point but never divulge what happens with all that money or what the buildings are used for in High Point.
Good reporting. Thank you
So when does the PIRT administrator get fired….or promoted?
This article is what I call journalism. If you can recognize it.
Go after them John. One of their high-tech gurus in Information Services could conduct a routine scan of their digital files with key words and that would solve the problem. The city is our city, not the politicians. I’ll bet a lawsuit provide the information in question, and you will hear them say . . . .”My gosh, I didn’t know we had that capability.”
Also, contracts goes thru the attorney’s office and if there is financing of any kind, it goes through the Finance office.
Our next election can’t get here fast enough so we can make the current council unemployed.
How many times have you eaten ice cream within 500 feet of a school or church? When and what type of ice cream was it and how much did it cost? How many times have you fallen off a ladder or ledge? When, where, how and why? List every paper cut you’ve ever had, including the date, time and type of paper you were handling at the time. List every time your dog peed on your neighbor’s grass. And I want this information in 30 days or else I’ll sue you until I get it. WHY do I want that info, and what will be the product of its revelation? That’s for me to know and you to find out.
All these events happened to YOU, but you don’t remember them all, or event not them in the course of a busy day. Why? Because they are not intrinsically relevant in the running of your life. How do you expect A COMMUNITY or an organization to keep track of events and items that are not absolutely relevant in managing day to day operations of a growing city?
SOMETIMES, a request for information is an exercise in memory and record keeping, and when the particular information requested is extraneous, vague, and not a data point that has a direct bearing on public health, safety or fiduciary responsibility. What is an ‘exempt location’, who designated it as such, and what bearing does that definition have on the purpose of the information requested? Any practical reason for that particular curiosity, or are you merely trying to ‘win’ at talking points? Here’s another public question How many times, when and where, have G’boro police exceeded SPEED LIMITS in the execution of their duties? Possibly a relevant question BUT WHO THE HELL HAS TIME TO TRACK IT? Until something catastrophic happens, the amount of time an officer would spend logging these incidents is not worth the lost productivity and opportunity cost to track. Not everything that can be counted or measured should be, especially if it’s to salve the curiosity of the eternally cynical, paranoid or contentious busybodies who would be happier living alone on a desert island, with no roads, humans or civil society to deal with.
Oh my !! Now look what you’ve done you pissed off fishbreath. Sorry buddy but we are talking about the government we pay for and they happen to be responsible for the information that was asked for Not to mention there’s a lot of taxpayer dollars in all this. You should be concerned about that point except we all know you are a socialist liberal democrat and people who pay taxes aren’t supposed to question the government. Life sucks for you doesn’t it.
Well, Fish-for-Brains, there’s something called a computer and the police put their crime data into it for every crime they investigate something. The data they enter goes into something called a database. A database is used to check on things like historical crime trends, much like what Mr. Rossabi is requesting. An exempt location, since you ask, is one that the city itself has defined, and includes the Coliseum and Tanger Center for example. Looking those up would be no hard task for the city, since they know where they are.
So to get Rossabi’s request filled, all they need to do is put the addresses of their pre-defined exempt locations into their own database, along with the date range and the crime types, and boom, you get the data he is asking for just as fast as the data entry guy or gal can get the parameters entered. There is actually a public version of this that any of us can use, but you can’t go back in time as far as Rossabi has requested.
Go to : http://www.crimemapping.com and enter a Greensboro zip code to get started.
You’re welcome fish for brains.
Dang Don you’ve impressed me I’m actually starting to like you. Good job on the information to fishbreath
What do you know John?
The city just miraculously found the previously “non existent records”.
I received this today: ” The Greensboro Legal Department provides the attached agreement”.
Only took a few months , a few emails and your article.
Thank you John for highlighting the current leadership’s disregard towards transparent government and public accountability.
Now, If only I could get the correspondence related to Matt Brown and Nancy Vaughan’ successful efforts to eliminate the Gun Shows from the Greensboro Coliseum.
Thanks again John…well done sir!
Typical of a left wing government… People that have the money and power basically do what they want
Shine a light on it! Good work! Now for solutions…….. new council #1.