CHALLENGE - Rep. Greg Cromer

It is unfortunate that my conversation with a St. Tammany legislator, Rep. Greg Cromer, is not developing from a less contentious encounter.  Nevertheless, I suppose we have both thrown down the gauntlet.

I first challenged Rep. Cromer during a League of Women Voters forum by publicly stating that St. Tammany taxpayers overwhelming support their public school system as evidenced by the results of the last bond issue and in the fact that a huge majority of students in St. Tammany attend public rather than private schools.  I pointed out that STPSB is the largest employer in the parish and that educators, their families, friends and parents of students represented a large block of voters.

Rep. Cromer voted along with all our St. Tammany delegation (exception Sen. Ben Nevers) FORGovernor  Jindal's reform agenda.

Rep. Cromer challenged my statement publicly by countering that in fact he received far more correspondence  from his constituency in support of reform than against.  After stewing over that for a few days with the knowledge that many educators reported to me that they had emailed and called Rep. Cromer, and some forwarded copies to me, I decided to request proof of Rep. Cromer's statement.  If St. Tammany teachers and other taxpayers are not actively participating in directing their own fate, I wanted to know about it.

Here are the results of my request.  The only response I will make at this time is that a solution was offered and accepted and the conversation with Rep. Cromer is open.  Both of us now want public participation in the conversation.  Both of us are now paying attention.

Now it's time for members of the school system, parents and even students who want to retain our successful St. Tammany Public Schools and to enjoin our State Board of Elementary & Secondary Education to focus on helping us improve public education rather than privatizing it, to stand up AND BE COUNTED!   Email Rep. Cromer and if you are so inclined, copy me at

lee@saveourschoolsmarch.org

cromerg@legis.la.gov


March 2, 2013


Pursuant to the Public Records Act of Louisiana, R.S. 44:1 et seq., I respectfully request the following information:

Rep. Cromer -

Last night you argued publicly with my statement that the majority of the voters of St. Tammany support our public schools and oppose the reform legislation passed with your vote last session.

You stated that you received more emails and letters and calls in support than against.  In accordance with that public statement, please provide electronic copies of all records justifying your position. Also provide any correspondence whether by letter or email and phone calls that you sent to your  constituents, fellow legislators or other public officials regarding education legislation.

Sincerely -


Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT
Secondary English, Journalism, Gifted
Asst. National Director - Save Our Schools
178 Abita Oaks Loop
Abita Springs, Louisiana 70420
www.geauxteacher.net


March 5, 2013

Ms. Barrios:

Rep. Cromer has forwarded your request for public records to me for response.  I am the custodian of the records of the House of Representatives which includes Rep. Cromer's district office & e-mail accounts.

Your communication to Rep. Cromer was unspecific as to the time period you expect us to examine to discover Rep, Cromer's written & electronic communications to be able to respond to your request.

Please provide me with a time frame within which I may conduct the search for discovery and production of the records to satisfy your request.
Please respond acknowledging receipt of this e-mail and providing me with the necessary time-frame for my search. Failure to so respond will delay the processing of your records request.

Alfred W. Speer, Clerk
225-342-7259

March 5, 2013

Mr. Speer -

Thank you so much for the quick response. I have not found that to be the case with the LDoE.

I would ask for communications between Jan 1, 2011 and July 31, 2012 as those would have been the most active periods related to legislation according to my own collection of emails, some of which were sent to Legislators and blind copied to me.

Thanks,

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

March 5, 2013

Ms. Barrios:
Thank you for your prompt attention to my request. What I have to tell you now will not as positive.

Because you are requesting we examine e-mail records for 445 calendar days, our response will not occur for some long period of time. See the below explanation of our processes:

Because we do not have an archive/storage system on our e-mail servers, our procedure requires our computer center to segregate the daily back-up tapes covering the request period. The computer center then has to re-create each separate day of e-mails for Rep. Comer's mail boxes covering the request period.

I then review the e-mails from the recreated the mail boxes and segregate any e-mails that meet the criteria of your request. I then will sit with Rep. Cromer and review the segregated e-mails to identify any that are protected speech under the constitutional privilege contained in La. const. Art. III, § 8. I will create a disclosure log identifying the number of segregated e-mails and the reason for their segregation.
This process will result in a set of e-mails which will meet your request. I will notify you of the number of pages and will deliver those e-mails after you pay to the House of Representatives the requisite $0.25 per page charge.

The restoration process requires 1 work day for each day of restoration - in your request 445 days of restoration will require 445 work days. We require a current, experienced Network Specialist perform this work because it involves our current backup system and several servers that remain in production. This person must be fully familiar with our systems. We do not approve overtime for this type of work.

Once restoration of the 445 days if e-mail is complete I will be able to begin my review of the mail boxes. Until I know of the size of the restored mailboxes & the number of e-mails I will not be able to estimate the date upon which I will be able to deliver you the copies of the e-mails.

The House will begin this process when you inform me you understand the time delay accompanying your request.

By copy of this e-mail, I am formally requesting Rep. Cromer and his assistant segregate the written correspondence you request and transfer those documents to me for my review.

You may contact me at the office, 225-342-7259, or at this e-mail address.

Please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail. Failure to so acknowledge will delay the processing of your records request.

Alfred W. Speer, Clerk

March 5, 2013

Mr. Speer -

I have never encountered this problem in requesting emails and telephone records. I would limit my request to emails but even that seems absurd. As a taxpayer myself, I don't wish to incur this kind of expense for the public.

My concern is in the opportunity for our public officials to make blanket statements that cannot be backed up - statements that influence public opinion and then action (votes). Rep. Cromer made such a statement during a forum sponsored by The League of Women Voters. Another participant also questioned Rep. Cromer's claim but, like me, did not want to put herself in the position of calling Rep. Cromer a "liar." Indeed, no one would challenge Rep. Cromer's veracity, but only ask that statements like his be substantiated just as vote counts are disaggregated in various ways and made public after an election. I believe that public records laws were intended just for this purpose, but make the law so difficult to use renders it useless.

I will consult with an attorney and the Attorney General's office about the problem to see if there are other remedies short of expensive public records searches and lawsuits. Perhaps Rep. Cromer would offer some alternative solution to my concerns. It would seem that if he has no system for recording or filing correspondence from his constituency that he would refrain from making these statements. I know that I "file" my emails under different subjects on AOL for easy reference. I believe it's incumbent upon citizens to hold our public officials accountable in order to preserve the foundations of our democracy.

Possibly Rep.Cromer will agree to have his legislative staff begin filing his emails related to education from now until July 1 of this year as an alternative to my request. If his presumption that the citizens of Louisiana - in particular his own constituents - support Jindal's reform legislation is a accurate, then he will have evidence to use in his next campaign.

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT


March 12, 2013

Ms. Barrios:

Last Tuesday evening you replied to my latest e-mail with a message containing the following:

' Possibly Rep.Cromer will agree to have his legislative staff begin
filing his emails related to education from now until July 1 of this
year as an alternative to my request.'

Following your suggestion, Rep. Cromer's assistant will file all e-mails he receives which are related to education in a dedicated folder within his e-mail.

These e-mails will then be readily available for his access if a future inquiry is made concerning citizen contacts.

Alfred W. Speer, Clerk
225-342-7259

March 12, 2013

Mr. Speer -

Excellent! A fairly simple problem with a simple solution is a tiny but important step in opening the conversation about solutions to the growing pains of public education that have been misdiagnosed and treated with medicine that is doing more harm than good. It could be that the treating physician has no medical credentials or that he has made a huge personal investment in pharmaceuticals and the sicker he makes his patients, the more he benefits. A fitting analogy for our Superintendent John White who is totally unqualified and has ties to political and corporate interests.

I look forward to meeting with Rep. Cromer soon along with several other highly qualified educators to discuss past and future legislation. I hope that he will make himself available outside of school hours to have some very important conversations.

Sincerely -


Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT


FOOTNOTE:  I fowarded Mr. Speer's response to my FOIA to several knowledgeable and experienced stakeholders and asked what they think of the process for my FOIA as described by Mr. Speer.  Here is one response which represents a concensus. 

"I think he is full of it.  There is no possible way that the House can take 400+ days to respond to your request.  It is simply asinine."

Here is a link to the full list of Legislators and their email.  When you write, you might as well copy them all!

http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Reps/H_Reps_Email.asp

http://senate.la.gov/Senators/E-mail.asp

 












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