Author Topic: Think we have "public records"? Think again.  (Read 2663 times)

Sandy Davis

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Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« on: December 10, 2019, 08:21:43 AM »
If you all will remember, the forum had a whistleblower who told us that there was a ‘deferred compensation benefit’ for certain “chosen” employees that was kept very hush-hush as the public (and the non-chosen employees) would be furious if they knew about it. The following is correspondence between Michele Betty, the record’s clerk, and me regarding this deferred compensation. The city denied that there was such animal, but then they went on to make a mistake (God love 'em) in a record’s request where they left in the words “Deferred Vested Benefits”. Now, when I asked for hard copies of the 13 pages I viewed where these magic words were mentioned, the magic words suddenly disappeared along with any reference to them. Read the following and decide for yourselves if the city is perverting the Open Records Act. For ease of reading, I have copy/pasted the body of the emails. My words are in black. Ms. Betty’s are in red. Note - I am still asking for records regarding the Germantown Country Club and as you’ll see, the files never seem to open for me to review. To date, I have still not been able to review them.

oct 11
Ms Betty, I never asked for tax returns. I want to know "any and all compensation" of those employees I listed. Again, I was given a statement by your office that city employees do not receive bonuses. I asked the following... "Do they receive what the IRS would consider a bonus, but the city now calls it by another name?" Nowhere have I asked for tax returns. I asked for "any and all compensation". That would certainly include anything that would have to be listed for IRS purposes. I believe the city administrator is playing games designed to pervert sunshine laws.
This is a simple request. "Any and All" compensation is as clear as I can possibly make it. If it is a benefit of ANY kind, as a tax payer, I would like to know exactly what it is. Hopefully we can finally get this resolved. Thank you, Sandy Davis

Nov 12
Michele, the # of the file that you couldn't open is indeed about the GTown CC, not a contract. as you can see from your Oct 22, 4:36 email. The # I referenced was correct...TPRA-72.

Nov 15
I'm not sure what's going on but I have tried to call the # you gave me to schedule for use of the computer since yesterday. All I get is a recording that keeps repeating itself. Would you please just schedule me for 1:00 if the computer is open? [Note - I finally had someone call the city to see if they could get through. They could. The very nice lady at the front desk later told me she could see my 731 area code number pop up, but could never answer the call from that number.]

Nov 18
Hi Michele, I need to look at the following again:
TPRA 2019-72
TPRA 2019-75
TPRA 2019-83

at 1:00 tomorrow is computer is available.

Also, consider this a request to inspect the following:
1.The Deferred Vested Benefit statements for the last two years of Patrick Lawton and all Commission heads.
2. Cash Balance Plan statements of Patrick Lawton and all commission heads for the past two years.

Additionally, I'd like to purchase copies of TPRA 2019-75 pages 1-13.

Thank you, Sandy

Nov, 19
I had made note that there were 13 pages that we inspected on that date. I also had in parenthesis a section regarding Deferred Vested Compensation that applied to employees hired in 2002 and earlier.

When Ms. Zoe Fleming received the requested 13 pages today, there were only 12 pages, not 13. There was also no blank spaces. The part that was missing was the section on "Deferred Vested Benefit".  I can see no other way for this to have occurred unless someone intentionally took that section out. I'm not mistaken in what I read as Mr. and Mrs. Fleming and I discussed it at length (as well as took exact notes).

I am very concerned this was an effort on someone's part to intentionally pervert the sunshine laws. If there is any other explanation, I would like to hear what that is before I contact the Office of the TN Comptroller regarding efforts to tamper with public records. If there is a logical explanation or misunderstanding, I do not wish to waste the Office of the Comptroller's time. Please advise.

Additionally, the records regarding the Germantown Country Club are still not viewable. When I attempted to view the records the first time, you were unable to get the file to open. When I went to view it today (you had put it as attachments to another file), the attachments would not open. So please note my request regarding the GCC has still not been forthcoming, not even in part. Thank you, Sandy Davis




Nov 20
Sandy,
With respect to TPRA 2019-75, I have again reviewed the records pertaining to employee benefits.  There are only twelve (12) pages.  Nothing was removed on the pages provided to Ms. Fleming.


With respect to TPRA 2019-72 (Germantown Country Club records), I have reviewed the records and attachments, and everything is in order.  There is nothing wrong with the uploaded file.  Please make arrangements with my office to view these records at City Hall.  I will assist with retrieving those on the public computer if need be. [Note - To date, I have still not been able to view the records I requested regarding the Germantown Country Club.]

Nov 20
Respectfully Michele, the 12 pages received were indeed 13 pages when originally viewed, and the section pertaining to deferred vested benefits was indeed missing from the pages we received. Who was responsible gathering and providing both the original pages inspected on the 15th and those we received yesterday?

nov 20
I am.

Nov21
Well it's technically called the "Deferred Vested Benefit". We can play semantics all day, but when I originally asked for "any and all compensation", this should have been included. So while I'm not sure which request you're referring to, I am now requesting the actual statements of any employee enrolled in this "Deferred Vested Benefit" for year 2016 to present. Michele I got this from the original 13 pages I viewed that then shrank by one page after that particular section was removed. It is one of the sections I copied verbatim in my notes with quote marks. Both the Flemings saw it. And again, the 3 of us discussed it in detail. Are you saying that there is no such thing as Deferred Vested Benefits? [Note - to date Michele Betty has not denied the existence of this plan. Just my access to it.]

Nov 22 -
Again Michel, the law you keep citing to deny my request specifically states the benefits I'm asking for should indeed be available for public inspection. I am again asking to inspect # 1 & 2 regarding the deferred vested benefits. You have already provided many employee benefits so you obviously are aware of this. Please confer with the city attorney on this.

Nov 22
Michele, so as not to misunderstand, are you saying that the Deferred Vested Benefits plan details are not available to the public that pays for these benefits?

Are you also saying that the individual statements of employees enrolled in this plan are also not available to the public?

Please cite the law that supports your position, The law you cited does not.

Dec 3 -
Michele I'm still waiting for you  to cite the law that says where any deferred compensation, in this case "deferred vested compensation", is not available to the public. The law you cited does not. Will you please speak to the city atty and forward me your justification for denying my request. Thank you

Dec 4
Michele, to clarify my last record request, I would like to view the original Deferred Vested Benefit plan description, not a summary. Thanks.

Also, not only are the Flemings and I witness to the Deferred Vested Benefits plan's existence per your own records, Dean Massey has shared with me correspondence from last year where the city admits there is an older retirement comp plan. You have not denied the existence of the "Deferred Vested Benefits" plan. I have consistently asked for "any and all" compensation. This appears to be a long-standing and deliberate effort by the city to violate the open records laws by refusing to release this information, not just a mistake.

I indeed to pursue this until I have the information that is the public's right to know.

Dec 9
Michele I never received an acknowledgment that you received my last records request. Again, I would like to view the plan description for the deferred vested benefits plan. Not a summary but the actual plan description.

Also, I would like to know how much paper copies are vs electronic for TPRA 2019-102 "General" 130 pages total.

Thank you

Dec 9
I am in receipt of your requests.

Labor at $250/hour for 9.3 hours (excluding first hour hour); Labor at $110/hour for 2.5 hours
Total labor: $2,600.00

$2,600.00 total labor/859 pages reviewed = $3.02677 per page (rounded down to $3.02 per page)
$3.02 X 130 pages = $392.60 plus an additional $5 for thumb drive.



Dec 9
Michele, there is no redaction needed. These pages are all billing by city attys that I have already viewed. Pease explain in detail your justification for the amount of money you cite.

Dec 10
Michele please cite the law that gives the city the authority to charge for over 800 pages when I have only asked for 130 pages. According to how the city is trying to charge me for these 130 pages, anyone who requests to review records and then asks for copies of some, will have to pay for all the records they originally requested to view. This seems to intentionally make it prohibitively expensive for taxpayers to get copies of their own public records. Thank you, Sandy Davis

Dec 10
The cost of labor was for your entire records request, which generated 859 pages to be reviewed.
Thank you,

Michele Betty


Dec 10
Please cite me the law that gives the city the authority to charge for records that were only viewed simply b/c I requested a copy of a few of them.

Dec 12
Hi Michele, I'm still waiting for you to cite the law giving the city the authority to charge me $2600 for the 130 pages of atty billing that required no redaction. If they attys reviewed the bills, it was not necessary unless they wished to hide certain bills from the public. That would not be a legitimate reason to review, much less one I should be charged thousands of dollars for.

Again, please cite the law that gives the city this authority. Thank you, Sandy Davis

Fri, Dec 20, 2:22 PM (8 days ago)
to Michele

Hi Michele, This is the 4th request I have made for the actual law that states that the city can charge for all records I requested to view when I only requested to have copies of 130. Again, there were no needed redactions for the routine atty bills I requested. 

I have also not received an update of the records request I sent you pertaining to Deferred Vested Benefits.

Thank you, Sandy Davis

Jan 13
Michele

Thank you for the response. [Her only response was simply that she was out of the office] Also, don't forget that the records regarding the Germantown Country Club have all been in files that won't open all 3 times I tried to view them. To date, I have seen none of them. Lastly, I am still waiting for someone to cite the law that allows to city to charge me for records that I didn't request copies of. The routine attorney bills that should not have needed any review or redaction. Thank you, Sandy

Feb 2
Ms. Betty, I am still waiting for you to release the records I have requested to view. It's been months. At this point you have just stopped responding to me at all which is obviously intentional, illegal, and unacceptable.

Again, I'm still waiting for the records pertaining to the GTown County Club that have been 'released' to me in files that do not open. You said you would straighten this out. You haven't.

Also, the Deferred Vested Benefits plan should be something that requires no redactions, and again, it's been months.

Thank you, Sandy Davis

Betty, Michele
Tue, Feb 4, 9:45 AM
to Sandy

I checked the Germantown Country Club records and these are openable.
The law does allow for a municipality to charge for labor when making copies. The cost of labor was for your entire records request, which generated 859 pages to be reviewed.
The City has a Legacy Defined Benefit Plan and a Cash Balance Plan. These plans are included in TPRA 2019-83.


Thank you,

Michele Betty


Sandy Davis <sandraedavis@bellsouth.net>
Tue, Feb 4, 10:09 AM
to Michele

That is what you said but I still couldn't open them the last time either and you were unavailable. To date I have not been able to review any of them.

Are you stating that there is no "Deferred Vested Benefits" plan now and there never had been during your time at the city? Have you ever produced for me to view the Legacy Defined Benefit Plan and a Cash Balance Plan descriptions? I don't think I've ever heard of either and I know I have asked many times for "any and all compensation".

Please tell me the exact law that states a city can charge for all records reviewed even when copies for just some are requested. If this were the case, it would simply discourage the public for asking for complete records which is not the intent of the open record's laws.

Please advise, Sandy Davis

As you can see Michele Betty refuses to cite the law giving her permission to charge me (an outrageous amount) for all records viewed when I only want a few as copies. The law she did cite, doesn't give her that permission. When I called her on that, she stopped citing that particular law, but she obviously still can't find a law granting her that permission. So she simply ignores my requests.  Also, Ms. Betty refuses to say there is no such thing, and has never been, as "deferred vested benefits". I know there is because when I reviewed earlier records "deferred vested benefits" was mentioned. When I requested hard copies of the 13 pages with this mentioned in them, suddenly the 13 pages become 12 and it was removed from the original content. Ms. Betty denied this although there were 3 of us that witnessed the reference, we discussed it, and I put it in my notes with quotation marks. Lastly, Ms. Betty claims the Germantown Country Club records I requested do open. They don't open
 and I have made 3 attempts. She has not made herself available to open them except for the first time, and guess what, she couldn't open the files either.


March 4-
I heard from Michele Betty only to find out....nothing. She checked the box that says item #5 (accrued leave) is ready for me to view. I have already told her in an email that since I made that request originally, Sarah Freeman asked for and received those documents months ago! I stated in the email I no longer needed them. Again, Ms Betty mentioned nothing about Deferred Vested Benefits (nor will she deny there is such animal). Nor did she cite the law granting the city the authority to charge me for records only viewed. Nor, did she even mention the records I requested last summer regarding the Germantown Country Club. Here was my last response to her latest effort to frustrate me in seeking this public records.

Sandy Davis
to Michele
March 4

Michele as I explained in a previous email, Sarah Freeman got the records on accrued leave months ago and I no longer need them. As you are well aware, they have already been posted online for the public. btw - if I did need them, why would it have taken so long given Ms. Freeman was already given these records? This seems like intentional stalling to keep from submitting the records I do still want. Again, mainly, the records pertaining to GCC (no, again, they would never open), and the benefit plan description for what was (or still is) called "Deferred Vested Benefits".  Also, the law citing how the city can charge me for all records viewed even though I only requested a few of them in hardcopy. Again, the law you cited does not give the city that authority. Sandy Davis
« Last Edit: March 04, 2020, 02:29:33 PM by Sandy Davis »

Susan

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2019, 10:11:28 AM »
The rates for requesting and viewing Public Records are asinine. Any citizen should be able to view and request copies of all records at a nominal rate.
This seems to indicate there is much to hide from the citizens.

Sandy Davis

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2019, 10:13:58 AM »
The rates for requesting and viewing Public Records are asinine. Any citizen should be able to view and request copies of all records at a nominal rate.
This seems to indicate there is much to hide from the citizens.

And these were simply atty billing hours. There was no redactions required other the the tax ID # at the top of the page. Now, I'm sure they went through all of them carefully to omit anything particularly incriminating, but we certainly shouldn't be charged for that.

NancyDrew

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2019, 08:18:48 AM »
I have often heard it is the coverup that is worse than the crime. It is a mystery as to why simple billing account should cost so much that it is an obvious obstacle. Is there an investigative journalist that would delve into this?  How can they get away with charging so much? Who is the check and balance? By gouging citizens and keeping them from basic information such as simple billing of attorneys it appears it is an attempt to prevent others from daring to question anything. Where is the DA? The state comptroller? The state attorney general? The TBI? The FBI? Someone, anyone, Bueller?
« Last Edit: December 11, 2019, 08:29:50 AM by NancyDrew »

GERMANTOVA

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2019, 10:32:10 PM »
We need a lawyer.  A real one not tied to Lawtons purse strings.  How does a city go about getting independent counsel.  Can we make complaints to Shelby County or request help as citizens of this County we are being lied to, manipulated and gouged.  We have lost all control to Germantown admin tyranny.  I want criminal charges at this point.

administrator

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2019, 06:26:28 PM »
Lawsuit in Knox County has been heard and surprise, surprise, the games the officials there played to stop the public from getting public records are exactly the same games the City of Germantown is playing. Michele Betty needs to de deposed along with her buddies at City Hall. I don't think the city could survive the discovery process in a lawsuit. Too many secrets would come out. Maybe we should start a fund and hire an atty. Here's the link to read about the Knox Co lawsuit. Anxious to see this decision come in.
http://tcog.info/public-records-case-against-knox-county-sheriff-showcases-thorny-problems-for-requesters/?fbclid=IwAR2HRP9R4wVnYm2A84Dbf1W7dJzZZk8XZBNhTfn4RLn9F_3CAeCRFYamPls

GERMANTOVA

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2019, 08:11:44 PM »
Lawsuit in Knox County has been heard and surprise, surprise, the games the officials there played to stop the public from getting public records are exactly the same games the City of Germantown is playing. Michele Betty needs to de deposed along with her buddies at City Hall. I don't think the city could survive the discovery process in a lawsuit. Too many secrets would come out. Maybe we should start a fund and hire an atty. Here's the link to read about the Knox Co lawsuit. Anxious to see this decision come in.
http://tcog.info/public-records-case-against-knox-county-sheriff-showcases-thorny-problems-for-requesters/?fbclid=IwAR2HRP9R4wVnYm2A84Dbf1W7dJzZZk8XZBNhTfn4RLn9F_3CAeCRFYamPls

It's way past time for the citizens to have a true voice.  Not scraps they feed and then take away at the 2 min mark.  A simple records request would NEVER cost that amount of money.  I can see paying for copies which would be very high cost in most instances.  But attorney fees for reviewing them before they go out? Um how long would that take? How about a .25 hour to skim through to make sure it's the right document requested.  Anything longer let's me know they are looking for something to redact and you simply cant modify records.  Breaking the chain of evidence, conflict of interest, and tampering/with holding.  How is this NOT being looked into? How do we get someone who cares enough to actually go after this?
 

NancyDrew

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2019, 09:16:16 PM »
What  agency would look at things like this? TBI? FBI? Several publicly said they reported to comptrollers office  and obviously nothing has happened. People in the past went To SC DA too. Then to the state. If this goes up to the state level then maybe it would have to be Federal investigators to get past the state conies?  Hello? Does anyone care that such abuse is going on?

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2020, 11:49:41 AM »
To further support the charge that city officials are violating open records laws, here is some correspondence when Dean Massey tried to get records regarding the Royal Benefits. God only knows how badly the citizens are being robbed daily.

Sandy Davis

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2020, 01:45:20 PM »
Michele

Can I assume at this point the city is simply refusing to allow public records to be given to the public?

I am still waiting for several things including the benefits statements pertaining to Deferred Vested Benefits. This should require no redactions or anyone to review it.

Thank, Sandy Davis

Sandy Davis

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2020, 01:47:21 PM »
Finally heard from Michele Betty:

Betty, Michele
1:10 PM (35 minutes ago)
to me

I am out of the office and will return Monday, January 13.


Sure hope she's submitted leave slips

administrator

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Re: Think we have "public records"? Think again.
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2020, 10:03:48 AM »
Here are a few of Dean Massey's experiences in the attempt to get public records:
 https://www.facebook.com/MasseyForGermantown/posts/1588671104589419?__tn__=-R

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