Do transcripts of City Council committee meetings contradict the minutes recorded by the secretarial services group hired by the City Clerk’s Office that preserves council records? City Councilwoman Enedia Martinez, a member of the Ordinance Committee, asserts that’s the case declaring “My review reveals that the minutes in many instances do not accurately reflect what actually transpired during the meetings.” Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez also asserts she discovered discrepancies in her recent case before a freedom of information hearing officer who sided with her complaint charging that a vote by the budget committee in May citing “pending litigation” for the basis of an executive session violated state law.
In that case FOI attorney Tracie Brown ordered the city to “create minutes of the executive session … to include a detailed account of the discussions that took place, including the names of the cases discussed, and further, shall forthwith file such minutes with the town clerk and provide a copy, free of charge,” to Lopez.
Martinez adds these discrepancies have delayed the Ordinance Committee from approving minutes of meetings for several months. Martinez shares this letter, dated Oct. 16, distributed to city officials, including the Mayor’s Office, City Attorney’s Office and City Clerk. She is seeking transcripts from several meetings.
On April 17, 2018, I notified the City Clerk’s Office, the Mayor’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office and the Chief Administrative Officer of my concerns regarding the accuracy of minutes taken by the Telesco Secretarial Services, the recording service used by the Office of the City Clerk to transcribe all City Council meetings, including city council committee meetings.
A copy of my April 17, 2018 email to the above mentioned City Officials is attached herewith.
I have begun the process of reviewing the proposed minutes of the Ordinance Committee meetings going back several months. My review reveals that the minutes in many instances do not accurately reflect what actually transpired during the meetings.
On October 11, 2018, I renewed my request for a response to the concerns that I expressed on April 17, 2018. In addition, I requested a copy of the transcript of each meeting, as well as the tape recordings of each meeting, so that I can compare the transcript with the proposed minutes prepared by Telesco Secretarial Services.
Copies of the emails that I sent on October 11, 2018 are attached herewith.
I believe this comprehensive review is necessary, particularly in light of a recent decision issued by a Freedom of Information Commission hearing officer.
During the course of the hearing on that matter, it was revealed that the minutes of the meeting did not accurately reflect the motions that were made and voted upon. In other words, the actual statements made by the City Attorney or the City Council member are not reflected in the minutes, but rather are edited to reflect something other than what was actually spoken.
My repeated requests for a response to this critically important matter, have been stonewalled by the City Attorney, the Mayor and the City Clerk.
Since the City Attorney introduced copies of the transcript generated by a City Council Committee at the recent hearing at the Freedom of Information Commission, there is no reason to believe that transcripts are not available.
The City Attorney and members of his staff, frequently announce at meetings that they are the legal counsel to the City Council and all of its committees. In other words, the City Council members are prevented from seeking advice from any source whatsoever, except the Office of the City Attorney.
Given that the City Attorney is of this opinion, it only seems appropriate to conclude that a failure to respond to a request for assistance from a member of the City Council, translates into a breach of the duty imposed upon attorneys regarding timely and appropriate advice to a client.
I urge the Mayor, the City Clerk and the City Attorney to take action on this critical matter immediately.