"Destruction of Records" letter from George Muteff
January 14, 2014
SMC Harbor District
Attn: Harbor Commission President Bernardo (sent via email)
RE: Item 6 of the 01-15-2014 Harbor District Board meeting - Records Management: Destruction of Records
Dear President Bernardo (et all),
I am writing this to express my deep concern with recent actions taken by the Harbor Board (Board) over the course of the last year, culminating (so far) with this, Item 6, on the 01-15-2014 Harbor District (HD) Agenda; Destruction of Records.
As much as Iʼd like to attend and present the Board with my concerns personally, I will unfortunately not be able to attend, hence this communication. It is my hope that you and your fellow Commissioners heed the request that myself and others are proposing; please pull Item 6 from this Agenda - please do not take action on this matter at this time. Following is the background and supporting data to justify removing Item 6 from the 01-15-14 Agenda at this time.
You may remember me from my comments suggesting that the vacated HB seat (due to death) should go to the voters as opposed to being appointed by the Board (Comfort Inn meeting). You may also remember that my argument, to place the seat on the ballot at the earliest convenient time was based on the fact that the vacated term was as close to the full term as it could have been (almost the full 4 years) and that the Board should be made up of elected officials as opposed to appointed (by the Board). Your predecessor, Mr Tucker was Board President at the time.
Over the recent months the HD has set several disturbing Policies that have gotten the attention of the electorate (and others). Taken singularly, each one is cause for concern; but collectively, they certainly appear very damning. With your permission, Iʼll be blunt in my recantation, from my perspective: First, pitch a fit about a Board member asking questions and shut that down / next, curtail public input / next, curtail member input / next, cease all video recordings of the Agency meetings / next, move to Action Minutes (veiling Item discussion) - and now, for the cherry on the cake, destroy Agency records. Certainly you can clearly see cause for concern from those your Board serves. It is abundantly clear to the public that the Board is circling the wagons against its constituents. It should be equally obvious to this Board that this Boardʼs actions have created a breach of trust with your constituents. The more than obvious question is - Why? What is it that this Board is working so feverishly to hide &/or protect?
When one further considers the recent questionable financial discoveries, the benefits package Board members enjoy, and the rancor both with the public and between your own Commissioners, one can clearly understand the the erosion of faith by the electorate and that the HB has some major issues that need to be dealt with.
I am and always have been an advocate for transparency, thereby creating a genuine partnership between governing boards and their constituents. Transparency is a lot more than a word found under T in Websterʼs. It is a mindset, a core value, a necessity in good governance for achieving the best results for all. Every governing board for every district should work with those they represent, not at odds with them and most certainly not in a vacuum. It is the public, after all, whose funding pays for every stitch of everything the governing boards claim and use. If nothing else, transparency should be a good example of governing boards respecting the public that funded their district and elected the members. Honesty is the key - both between the public and its elected and between the elected and the public.
I am requesting that Item 6 be pulled from the 01-15-14 meeting Agenda. Further, and I realize how critical document management can be, this Item should be publicly vetted at both HD meeting locations, casting the net as broadly as possible to collect all the public input possible Before action is taken on this matter. I would tag it as ʻdue diligenceʼ on the part of the District.
Please understand; I am grateful for the concept, efforts and intent of most governing boards, even in disagreement; but when public perception of bad practices by their board(s) coupled with the specific actions of this HD (described above) are combined, as they are here, it would be my suggestion that fixing that set of issues takes precedent over all HD business, as opposed to furthering the hole you seem to find yourselves in.
How can a Board be effective in doing their charge when they are too busy circling their wagons and dealing with damage control?
As you will note, I am ccʼing your peers, all SMC Board of Supervisors and our local press. It has been my experience that folks seem to be more careful when others are looking over their shoulder. I am truly sorry it has come to this and wish you all only the best, but I am doing here what I feel is the right thing to do and what I feel I have to do.
It is my fervent hope that you and your peers take the same posture. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Half Moon Bay
Harbor Board Commissioners;
- Robert Bernardo - firstname.lastname@example.org
- William Holsinger - email@example.com
- Jim Tucker - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pietro Parravano - email@example.com
- Sabrina Brennan - Sabrina@DFM.com
San Mateo Board of Supervisors members;
- President of the SMC BOS Dave Pine - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Don Horsley - email@example.com
- Warren Slocum - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Carole Groom - email@example.com
- Adrienne Tissier - firstname.lastname@example.org
- HMB Review reporter Mark Noack - email@example.com
- Christa Bigue, HMB Patch Editor - firstname.lastname@example.org
Email Response from Robert Bernardo to George Muteff 1-15-14:
Dear Mr. Muteff,
On behalf of the San Mateo County Harbor Commission, thank you for writing and sharing your concerns about Consent Agenda Item #6 related to the Harbor District's records management and disposal policy.
As you may know, it's a common practice for most government agencies to have a records management and disposal policy. The Harbor District's policy comes from a Board resolution adopted back in July 17, 1996 (Resolution #01-14) which provides a formal procedure for proper records disposal.
Records disposal is a routine activity, and the Harbor District reviews its documents about every couple of years, with the most recent being in 2007 and 2010. The ultimate goal of this policy is to dispose of records which are no longer useful in conducting the District's day-to-day business. We contract with a professional shredding company to handle proper disposal.
Per our policy, some documents that are never destroyed include: Board minutes, Board agendas and personnel files. The California Government Code (Sec. 34090) requires that all public records be retained for 2 years. We are in compliance with legal mandates such as this one.
At tomorrow's (1/15) meeting, the Board will review and consider the list of items slated for disposal. Those specific items are listed in the Board packet (also available on the District's Web site) for members of the public to review as well.
I hope this better explains our policy and the need to dispose of documents periodically.
As always, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights with the Harbor District.
Robert Bernardo, President
San Mateo County Harbor Commission
Email Response from George Muteff to Robert Bernardo 1-15-14:
I appreciate your enthusiasm in response and the recognition that that response provides, however I am a bit struck by the content.
With all due respect, it appears that your response to my submission is a canned auto response that was provided without even reading what I wrote. Maybe, had you just stopped after the opening line it may have worked better, but once past that open, it is line after line after line of what appears to say “trust me” (which is no substitute for open dialog). Had you read my input, you would have seen that it is my opinion that your Board has violated my trust. Using phrases like “breach of trust” clearly indicates that problem, yet you just gloss over it - as if you never saw it.
I am much more interested in the reading and understanding of what I wrote by those I wrote to then I am etiquette and posture. It is important, considering the gravity of the actions already taken by this Board, that you and your peers think this latest matter through before you act. Take your time, vet it as thoroughly as possible at both District meeting locations. Help us understand your perspective and let us help you understand ours; then, after listening to your constituents, take the action that serves best.
In reading your staff report on this Item, it appears to me that this rapid move on “Record Destruction” is all predicated on saving the District the need to purchase filing cabinets, thereby saving the District money. That is absolutely absurd and is another example of why the perception of the Harbor Board has such a black eye to the public.
If I may, I’d like to make a suggestion; please take the time to read what is sent to you by your constituents. Try your best to understand the points made and the reason behind it - or better stated, the perception of you and the Board by the author on the issues raised. I believe that if you do that and truly consider what you are reading, your opportunity to do a better job will grow exponentially, which will only benefit us all.
Thank you for your time and service. It is my hope that you not only take pride in your work, but that you hold the integrity of your Board to the highest standard for the benefit of those you serve and yourself. After all, your name is on the line.
With that in mind, I hope that you understand that my comments here should not be viewed as disrespectful (they are not meant that way), but rather as constructive criticism in an effort to help you and your peers do a better job. That requires listening and communicating in earnest and honesty on each and every issue faced.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Email Response from Robert Bernardo to George Muteff 1-15-14:
Dear Mr. Muteff,
My sincere apologies if I have offended you in any way. It was not my intention. My goal was to provide the same background information that I provided another community member who asked a very similar question.
With regards to agenda item #6 related to records disposal, Harbor staff have reviewed each of the file boxes again and I have learned that the items slated for disposal in Box #26 are in fact, "duplicate" documents. In other words, the original documents will be preserved in perpetuity. These documents include items such as Board resolutions, agendas, minutes, and leases.
Please rest assure that the Commission will no doubt have an in-depth discussion tonight regarding these policy decisions where we will address issues of transparency, best practices and protocols.
I hope this answers your question.