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.