Occupy Denver: Why did city not cite conference call about occupiers in open records request?
Update: Westword recently received a copy of Kilmer, Lane & Newman's updated CORA request from investigator Christopher Dodd. The document is blunt: In it, Dodd references the existence of an Occupy movement-related U.S. Conference of Mayors conference call involving Mayor Michael Hancock's staff and asks very specifically for any details related to it. But as we pointed out in our original post below, the results were still the same. Zilch.
"Documentation of this phone call is exactly the sort of record I was seeking with my request," Dodd writes, pointing out the media coverage that had already touched on the issue. But the most notable aspect of the follow-up request (on view below) is probably its ending. Completed on November 18, only days after Miller says the second conference call took place, the document closes with this sentiment from Dodd:
"I find it difficult to imagine that the Mayor's Office does not have a single instance of documentation of such communication. I urge you to reconsider your response to my request."
Instead, the Mayor's Office responded by saying it had no material related to the open-records request -- a position it continues to maintain.
Look below to see the second CORA request in its entirety. Our previous coverage follows.
Page down to read our earlier coverage. Original post, 2:29 p.m. December 8: Since Oakland Mayor Jean Quan admitted her participation in a conference call about the Occupy movement with the mayors of eighteen cities in November, the subject has spurred open records requests across the nation. Denver is no stranger to either the requests or such participation: Mayor Michael Hancock's staff did take part in a conference call about the Occupy movement -- two, in fact -- but they're not the exact calls you're thinking of.
According to Amber Miller, members of Hancock's staff were on the line for two separate phone calls as a part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, one around October 13 (immediately before Occupy Denver's first eviction) and the other on approximately November 16. Both conversations covered the Occupy Wall Street movement, but neither included Mayor Hancock himself, she says. And neither conversation was the one Quan mentioned.
"We had just participated," Miller says. "And when I say participate, it's a number of cities calling into a conference call where they talk about the Occupy movements in different cities. It is very clearly just general information sharing."
The mayor's office shared information about the second call in an e-mail. In it, Miller wrote, "The Mayor's office and safety department officials participated in conversations with the U.S. conference of Mayors regarding Occupy Wall Street protests in cities across the nation. Conversations have been focused on information sharing and best practices surrounding the challenges and opportunities this unique situation presents to every city."
Here's a photo of that e-mail.
At this point, more than two weeks after the fact, the focus is less on the fact that the conversation happened than that it was not disclosed as a result of a Colorado Open Records Act submission made by David Lane in advance of Monday's temporary injunction hearing on behalf of Occupy Denver -- a request that was later denied.
"We asked for it, and they gave us nothing," Lane told Westword's Michael Roberts this morning. "I cannot believe that no one in the mayor's office took a single note from that entire conversation. I think they're hiding it."
According to his request, the Mayor's office was required to provide copies of any records of communication -- either digitally or in paper copies -- between Hancock's office and the mayors of any other cities. The request might offer a loophole because this specific communication occurred over the phone, but Lane remains skeptical that neither conversation created any records whatsoever that might be applicable to his CORA request.
Below is the response the mayor's office sent to Chris Dodd, an investigator for Lane's firm, on November 23 in response to his records request (also on view below):
Mr. Dodd -
When we replied to your records request by saying the Mayor's Office had no responsive records, we meant that the Mayor did not have "documentation of any... communication between Mayor Hancock (and/or his staff) and the governors or mayors of any other states or municipalities (and/or their staff) regarding the Occupy Movement." We were not withholding any document based upon an exemption from disclosure.
Admittedly, we had only searched for records of the Mayor -- we had not searched for records of the staff of the Mayor's office. We have now done so and have determined that neither the Mayor nor any member of his staff has any "documentation of any... communication between Mayor Hancock (and/or his staff) and the governors or mayors of any other states or municipalities (and/or their staff) regarding the Occupy Movement."
Please advise of additional questions or concerns regarding this request.
After the e-mail, Lane's team submitted a second records request to expand upon any material that might have been excluded from the original. "(It's) not just the mayor all of a sudden spontaneously calling his buddies," Lane says. "People took notes, I would guess. His staff was there on a conference call and people were taking notes. They just didn't turn them over."
Miller says neither conference call included any kind of collusion over plans to deal with local occupations, which is the main source of suspicion regarding the particular phone call Quan mentioned.
"I know that's something that was discussed, that there was some kind of strategy," Miller says. "This city has not been a part of any of that. We have been totally open about this. The conversation is one I have had with lots of other people."
Look below to read Kilmer, Lane & Newman's original records request:
More from our Occupy Denver archive: "Occupy Denver: Police text messages rip protesters as 'pathetic.'"
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