City Withholds Records From Press

Editorial

By Jon A. Brake

Last week the Free Press reported on new concrete streets in Northview costing $1.3 Million are breaking up and need of repair. The City staff would not produce records on the project.

On Friday a day after publication six files were opened to the Free Press but they looked as if they had been cleaned with Tide.

What records? Of the six files (we were told that we could not see them Tuesday because there were more than 12) four only had the basic documents about the project.

Only two letters from the City to the contractor Pavers Inc. remained in the files. The first dated October 10, 2001, was a one-paragraph letter telling the company "City of Manhattan has begun to recognize significant deficiency with respect to the quality of this project."

What was not told to the contractor was the City had the same problems between 1987 and 1992 and it was not a problem with the contractors but with the design.

The second letter dated February 11, 2002 (three days after Free Press inquiry) tells of the Cityís "concerns" and what repairs will be necessary.

City staff gave the Free Press two letters. The first states: "The files are complete except for documents that are exempt from disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act. All documents that have been removed from the files consist of documents that fall under exemption #20 of the Act. Such documents are notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, recommendations or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed."

The Free Press agrees that such items would be exempt but it is strange that in all of the files there are no letters from Pavers Inc. back to the City or copies of letters sent to the consultant.

It would appear that the Free Press will not get the complete record of this project and in return the people of Manhattan will not get the complete story.

We know this:

1. The City contracted to build the streets for $1.3 million.

2. Either a mistake was made in the design when the steel-mesh was left out or the City plans called for the mesh to be left out.

3. The contractor was stopped when they started to put the streets in without mesh and then told to continue when it was learned that it would cost more than $200,000.

4. Staff told the City Commission three weeks ago that all streets are being constructed with steel-mesh.

Here is the second letter to the Free Press telling about the items removed from the files. The list has been turned over to attorneys for review:

Dear Mr. Brake:

Your request on February 15, 2002, to provide a list of all items removed from the files regarding the construction of Green, Northview, Blaker, and Sloan Streets that you viewed last week are provided below. Scott Cram, City Engineer, and Bill Frost, City Attorney have reviewed your request and have submitted the following items. The items listed are exempt from disclosure under the Kansas Open Records Act and fall under exemption No. 20 of the Act. Such documents are notes, preliminary drafts, research data in the process of analysis, recommendations or other records in which opinions are expressed or policies or actions are proposed.

1. Document dated 1-4-02, which is research data in the process of being used to analyze the cracking of these streets.

2. E-mails of 7-26-00 between Debra Daily and Lynn Potter, Barb Siebold and Scott Cram discussion of funding alternatives for the project.

3. E-mail of 2-02-01 from Scott Cram to HWS Consulting discussing various alternatives related to the proj ect.

4. E-mail of 4-24-0 1 from Ron Fehr to Jerry Petty, Scott Cram, Lynn Potter, and Jerry McIntyre discussing a private individualís claim and action required.

5. Individual handwritten notes of Jerry Petty regarding a staff meeting on the project, dated 5-18-99.

6. Memo from Director of Utilities to the City Manager, dated 10-28-98, making certain recommendations regarding the projects.

7. Memo from Assistant Director of Utilities to the Director of Utilities dated 10-7-98, making certain recommendations regarding the projects.

8. Handwritten notes of Jerry Petty related to staff and consultant meeting on 6-2 1-99.

9. Research data and notes, with no date, regarding contractors involved in the project.

10. E-mail from Jerry Petty to Ron Fehr, dated 7-13-00, setting fourth opinions about the projects.

11. E-mail from HWS Consulting to Scott Cram, dated 7-13-00, setting fourth recommendations regarding the projects.

12. Notes of staff and consultant meeting held on 6-21-99, which set fourth recommendations regarding proj ects.

13. Various undated notes of Scott Cram regarding analysis of matters regarding projects.

14. E-mails of 10-17/18-01, between various staff members discussing alternatives to issues regarding the projects.

15. Notes of Jerry Petty regarding staff discussion on 10-31-01 regarding alternatives as to issues regarding the projects.

16. E-mail from Jerry Petty to various staff members, dated 2-8-01, discussing alternatives to funding issues.

17. Notes of Jerry Petty, dated 2-9-00, regarding meeting.

18. Notes of Jerry Petty, dated 3-7-00, regarding recommendations for the project.

19. Fax from HWS Consulting to Jeny Petty, dated 8-2-99, discussing recommendations.

If Brenda or I can be of further assistance, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Gary Fees, City Clerk