City Records Destruction – Hiding Corruption?

By: 
Stephen Downing

Following the Dec. 18 Long Beach City Council’s approval to destroy a massive collection of Long Beach Police Department records – just prior to implementation of a new state law that permits public access to previously inaccessible police disciplinary records – another bulk collection of City Hall records have been agendized for destruction approval by the City Council on Jan. 8.

The records include 49 categories of project files, purchasing records, vendors, contractors, consultant files and correspondence maintained under the jurisdiction of Development Services, Financial Management/Grants, Accounting and Council Districts 2, 4, and 5.

The agenda memo supporting the consent calendar agenda item indicates that the city attorney and mayor concur in the recommendation to destroy the records, which is permitted – but not mandated – by law.

The memo does not address the historical value of the records to be destroyed or reflect any consideration given to alternatives to destruction such as digitization or donation to a historical society or academia.

In the case of council district records the individual council members have also provided approval for their personal selection of district office records to be destroyed.

Of particular interest is Council District 5 (CD-5). Councilmember Stacy Mungo approved submission-for-destruction authority to the full Council for ‘Various Subject Files” and “Correspondence maintained by her office dated between Jan. 1, 2006 and December 31, 2010.”

The destruction of Mungo’s CD-5 office files raised red flags for former CD-5 Councilmember Gerrie Schipske, who had been led to believe that many of those files had been destroyed in violation of records retention laws soon after she left office.

Schipske‘s current concern is directed to one particular set of records that she created while holding the CD 5 council seat. Those records documented what she described as: “inspections concerning the condition of neighborhood sidewalks involving inspection cards and an excel report generated by my office and sent to the director of public works for a monthly meeting held to discuss infrastructure repairs.”

Schipske informed the Beachcomber that in 2016 she was deposed as a witness in the matter of Peggy Crisp vs City of Long Beach. Ms. Crisp had fallen on a broken sidewalk and had informed the city that Schipske’s council office had conducted the inspections and sent the reports to the director of public works.

During her sworn deposition Schipske said she confirmed the Crisp allegation regarding the sidewalk inspections and the creation and distribution of records to the Department of Public Works. She also said that her office staff had filed and indexed the records.

Schipske told the Beachcomber, “at that time the deputy city attorney representing the city said that the city did not have any of the records to which she referred in her testimony, despite the fact that her office staff had filed and indexed those records recognizing that at a minimum city code requires those records be retained for at least four years.”

In a Jan. 4 email to City Attorney Charles Parkin, Schipske provided the information surrounding her deposition testimony and wrote:

“Your deputy informed me and plaintiff’s attorney, that Councilwoman Stacy Mungo and Public Works Mike Conway had responded to requests for documents stating that none of my records had been retained by the city. Shortly after the deposition, I was told that my office emails had been deleted 30 days after I left office. I did not appreciate the assertion by your staff that I was not telling the truth that these files were kept by my office and left there when I exited office.”

In her Jan. 4 email to Parkin, Schipske continued, “Imagine my surprise when I was informed that for Tuesday, Jan. 8, the city clerk has placed several items on the consent agenda requesting the council authorization to destroy records of, among other departments, the 5th Council District. The index of those records indicates that there are many boxes of files going back to 2006 when I took office.”

Schipske concluded that “either the councilwoman and the former director of public works purposely misled your office or your office misled during the deposition.”

Schipske requested in her email to Parkin that he withdraw the council item and that “the city clerk disclose the content of each specific document in each of the boxes containing the documents approved for destruction by Councilmember Mungo, Mayor Garcia and City Attorney Charles Parkin.”

Parkin did not respond to Beachcomber requests for comment prior to publication.

At the Jan. 8 council meeting City Attorney Charles Parkin asked council to amend the motion “to authorize the city to destroy these records once we have completed and complied with the public records requests that are currently pending at the city.” In addition to the requests made by former Councilmember Gerrie Schipske and Bruce Levenson, the attorney who represented Peggy Crisp, Bill Pearl, publisher of LB Report, filed a public records request on Jan. 4. As a result of this article’s web publication on Jan. 7 a PRA was created by city staff on behalf of the Beachcomber.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD deputy chief of police.

stephen@beachcomber.news

 

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