Saturday, November 21, 2015

City, school district destroyed key Joplin Tornado records

The City of Joplin and the Joplin R-8 School District have systematically destroyed important historical documents relating to the Joplin Tornado.

An investigative report by the Joplin Globe's Andy Ostmeyer, posted earlier this evening,  revealed that the City of Joplin no longer has any of former City Manager Mark Rohr's e-mails. The Joplin R-8 School District only has two years' worth of former Superintendent C. J. Huff's e-mails.

City Clerk Barbara Hogelin told the Globe e-mails are deleted 30 days after the employee leaves his or her position. Even without that policy, Rohr's e-mails would have been available. Current City Manager Sam Anselm told the Globe that Rohr printed out his e-mails and then deleted them. Apparently, the printouts went with Rohr when he left.

The school district only retains its records for two years.

From the Globe article:

The Missouri Secretary of State’s office has on its website numerous schedules that specify document retention rules, including email. One of those schedules is for municipalities, another is a general records retention schedule. Both state: “It is the responsibility of local government to effectively maintain and manage these records and to ensure the continued preservation of those records of essential evidence that have enduring and permanent value.”
A record is defined as any document, book, paper, photograph, map, sound recording or other material made or received in connection with the transaction of official business.
“The definition includes those records created, used and maintained in electronic form,” both schedules state.
The schedules do not make any provision for wholesale deletions of emails once an employee leaves a public body but instead indicate the decision about whether or not to keep an email record depends entirely on content.
For example, there are three categories of correspondence by public officials under the Secretary of State’s general records retention schedule, including emails. “General” correspondence pertains to routine matters involving existing policies and procedures and is to be kept for a minimum of one year. “Transitory” correspondence — that which has no documentary or legal value — can be deleted right away. Examples of “transitory” documents include holiday notices, reminders of charitable campaigns, upcoming events and unsolicited vendor solicitations. “Policy” correspondence, including emails that form the basis of policy or set important precedents in the operation of a government body, are to be kept permanently and transferred to microfilm for long-term archiving and preservation.
“This form of correspondence will come exclusively from elected officials, administrators, managers or supervisors,” according to the Secretary of State’s retention schedule.
Stephanie Fleming, spokesperson for Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, said, “The retention schedule is legally binding.”


Anonymous said...

The retention schedule is legally binding.

That makes me think of this bit from Macbeth:

is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Not that I think Stephanie Fleming is an idiot, just that the facts on the ground here in the Joplin area make her sentence utterly meaningless. Our politically connected betters can violate pretty much any law they please and the local authorities who are in theory responsible for reining them in show a studied disinterest in doing so (I was going to say "any law that doesn't rise to the level of physical violence", then remembered the actions of the thug Rohr).

This extends to the depredations of Rita Hunter, who preyed on Jasper County's most vulnerable: while we voters ejected her from her office, and the Feds gave her a write slap for some federal money related things, her worst crimes go unpunished in this world.

Anonymous said...

Mission Accomplished!

kitty chiwawa said...

Par for the course! Why doesn't this (and many other things related to these entities) surprise me anymore...

Anonymous said...

Bidness as usual!

Anonymous said...

So then what was in the truck full of paperwork that the city sent off for shredding the week before the state auditors were scheduled to arrive?!

Harvey Hutchinson said...

Maybe Hillary came to town to give Rohr a lesson in how to delete them?

Corruption by any other name is still corruption,

Some of our incumbent councilmen spent s lit of time telling us Wallace-Byjalli was the greatest Master Developer ever!!( they would probably like a tutorial on how to delete right now)

Anonymous said...

I would think that Rohr's actions would be illegal. I have worked in government for 34 years, and have always understood that all correspondence is a government record owned by the government and as such is not to be removed from the office. Just because Rohr printed his e mails and then deleted them from computers, does not mean the printed documents were his to take. It seems he could be charged with stealing government documents.

Anonymous said...

Why can't the media request emails, related to council and school board work, from council members and board members? I'm guessing those people will have them saved, at least until the request is made to turn them over.