City of Eastlake – Transparency…Do you believe in miracles?

On May 29, 2020 we wrote an article about Records Retention Schedules, our latest installment in helping to educate the people on their rights under Sunshine Laws after the City of Eastlake was caught “putting their excuse machine in overdrive”. We initially decided to withhold the  name of the individual who was trying to bamboozle us by using the excuse that they are under audit as a reason for not producing the records we requested. We wrote to Mr. Mark Altier from the AG’s office who stated he had never heard of such a reason, and as such, was not a valid reason for telling us that the records cannot be produced timely. We sent that response to Eastlake asking if they wanted to reconsider producing the records we requested.

So let us give you a bit of background as to why we are asking for records from the City of Eastlake. We were asked by several Eastlake citizens to obtain information about the Mayor’s Secretary. We were told that she was given the job because of her special relationship with the Mayor. We were told she is making a salary that was much higher than a secretary should be making (similar to what’s going on over in Willoughby Hills). These Eastlake citizens wanted to know if Ms. Moran was indeed the most qualified candidate for the secretary to Mayor Morley.  The City has informed us that the salary paid for the position is determined by ordinance and the range is between $35,000 and $49,000. Ms. Moran is currently making approximately $47,000 a year. It is our opinion,  Ms. Moran’s salary is in line with other secretarial positions, including the private sector, and is not excessive.

To determine if Ms. Moran was the most qualified, we started out asking for all of the resumes submitted for the position. We were told that they were not on file (See Resumes Not On File hand-written note on our letter). We asked for the applications that were submitted. We were told, with great snark we might add, that they do not keep applications of candidates that are not hired. That’s when we asked for the Records Retention Schedules to see if they might have accidentally disposed of records they were supposed to keep.

When a Records Retention Schedule is in place, you must follow that to the letter. Records Retention Schedules are required by law. If there is no Records Retention Schedule, then all records must be kept indefinitely. If a category of record type, or if any type of record is not listed on the Records Retention Schedule, it must be kept indefinitely. Additionally, you can’t just make up a Records Retention Schedule, adopt it and that is that. There is a process by which the schedule must be reviewed and approved by the Ohio State Auditor.

Upon requesting Records Retention Schedules for all Eastlake City department, we were told that Eastlake was under audit and simply could not produce the Records Retention Schedules. After receiving Mr. Altier’s email stating he had never heard of such a thing, we sent another email to Carol Ann Schindel [no longer withholding the name], the individual responsible for producing records requests for the City of Eastlake, asking if she wanted to reconsider responding to our records request.

On June 14, we sent an email to Ms. Schindel reminding her that 30 days is typically considered a reasonable and customary time frame for producing records. We indicated that if we did not receive the records by the end of the month that we would be forced to file a complaint in the Court of Claims. Citizens should be able to obtain records the same day if they request them in person…that is the law. We are simply tired of being told one lame excuse after the other by government entity after government entity. We find that when government entities slow walk records, there is a reason. Either the record doesn’t exist and they don’t want to tell you that, or they are trying to cover up some impropriety somewhere. Sadly, we have seen so much corruption in Lake County.

Here is the response we received from Ms. Schindel yesterday:

Mr. Massie, as a former Ohio State House of Representative for Lake County District 63, and former Chief of the Cleveland Region for the Auditor’s office, I believe in transparency of records for all citizens. I highly respect the right to request public records and understand the process. It thrills me that you took an interest and have the certificate framed and hanging on your wall to refer to in your correspondence.  [LFC Comment: LOL…the certificate is not hanging on anyone’s wall.  It is sitting on top of the mounds of legal motions and other pleadings prepared to fight a Open Meeting lawsuit against Lake County Commissioner and candidate for the State Senate, Mr. Jerry (WJWJG) Cirino.]

Please also note that your time frame in which to comply is simply unreasonable during covid times, when offices have been relocated offsite, offices and businesses are rearranging spaces to allow for personal space.  Having been the Chief, I am very aware of what is a reasonable time frame.  These are indeed, not typical times.  As a side note – tell Mark [Mr. Altier] hello when you next discuss your concerns with him, and wish him well in his new position.  We did work together at the auditor’s office at the time. Please be sure to tell him hello for me.

As an additional point of education for you, our public records compliance does get audited, and a schedule was provided to them, which at the time of your request was under audit.  Therefore, rest assured, your kind words will be part of our compliance listing in our next audit.  And yes, your emails are part of the entire public records listing. [LFC Comment: We are well aware of everything that goes on in an audit and why, and what is being audited beginning this year. It is concerning to us that you are still trying to make excuses for trying to withhold a reasonable records request.]

Your “threat” of requesting the Records Retention schedule for all departments is easily handled, and can be sent to you “timely”, without any concerns.  Please let me know if that is a request, or just a comment made to intimate [sic] and bully.

If there is anything else you require, please let me know, and I will do my best to comply within a COVID reasonable amount of time.

Really? We have no words. Now it’s COVID? We wonder how many more excuses Miss Carol Ann can come up with for not producing the records we have requested. She should know better given all her wonderful credentials. Just for good measure, we checked Carol Ann’s political persuasion…she is a Republican. Shameful. “Intimate and bully?” We think she meant intimidate but not sure.  On second thought, intimate seems to describe the City of Eastlake very well. And let’s get to the bottom of the kind of qualifications the City of Eastlake is really looking for in administrative personnel.

Oh, it does get better…guess what was attached to that last snarky email from Miss Carol Ann? Wait for it. Miss Carol Ann attached a 12-page PDF of…the resumes. Abra-ca-pokus! She must have magical powers or something. Those resumes that Miss Carol Ann initially told us were not on file were found. It’s a MIRACLE…and [Cue the Hot Chocolate music] we do believe in miracles, we do believe in miracles, we do, we do, we do. We also received only the personnel section of what appears to be a very large Records Retention Schedule, so we will await submission of the entire document. Additionally, we asked for Records Retention Schedules for every Eastlake Department.

Let us recap this matter. A citizen asks for records from a government entity and is then told a lie about why they cannot be produced. The government entity is caught in the lie, and they still don’t produce the records. We let them know that we do know our rights, and  the citizen is then labeled a bully? Yep, you heard that right. It would appear that even Republican Carol Ann Schindel has crossed over to the dark side, lives in the ivory tower with Batman and his sidekick, and the citizens are just a nuisance. It’s no wonder Gotham City is the way it is.

One more thing…the City of Eastlake spent a lot of money to outfit all conference rooms at City Hall (with the exception of Mayor Morley’s conference room) with audio and visual recording equipment…you know, for transparency. We looked at their website yesterday after it came back up (it was down for some time) and find absolutely no recordings of Council Meetings on the website. Maybe we missed something. Transparency? Not by a long shot.

In conclusion, it is our opinion that Ms. Moran is qualified for the position as the Administrative Assistant.  Not the most qualified of the applicants based on our review of the resumes, but that really is not our call to makeAlso, we do not believe she is being paid an exorbitant salary.  We wish her well in service to the City of Eastlake.

*****

 



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