Update: I tried calling Mark Thompson again today. I was told that a Supervisor in Civil Filing (Lynn Fuchs) could not locate his phone number. Gosh, must be a big place.
So I called the number that was given to me, supposedly for Cherie Nelson. But I got a general-sounding voicemail box, saying ‘court administration’ was not available.
Because I could not reach Mark Thompson by phone (I have never been able to reach him by phone, see my post below), I sent him the below email:
I am trying to get copies of invoices paid to vendors who so-called “digitalized” court records. Why should this be such a big drama?
I have seen an RFP let mid 2012, to digitize data in the Fourth Judicial District. Attached was a sample contract. I want to point out that the vendors INDEMNIFIED the People of the State of Minnesota. (That’s not an exact quote, but that’s the gist of it.) So if anything went wrong, there will be many places for the People to go to get redress.
I talked to Carla Heyl, on Tuesday (March 19) and she said that her Division (Legal Counsel Division of the State Court Administrator’s Office) negotiates the contracts with vendors, but she would not be able to provide me with a copy unless I knew the name of the vendor. (That makes no sense; the public needs to be able to request data, it is the State Court Administrator’s job to locate it.) I asked where the original, fully-executed contracts are. She said in the “districts.” I asked – don’t you keep a copy in Legal? She said no.
If a private attorney did that, it would be malpractice, or we’d get charged with an ethics violation. Not keep a copy of the Signed contract?
Anyway, that’s what she said.
She said the “districts” are the ones that keep the contracts, because they are probably STILL PAYING VENDORS, and they “encumber the funds.”
According to the “sample contract” that I reviewed, Mark Thompson was charged with approving invoices for payment.
So Mr. Thompson, clearly you know where these invoices are.
I want the invoices, and I want records showing which ones you approved for payment.
And here’s the thing.
This so-called RFP let in mid 2012? Well, I was not able to get civil files at Hennepin County (Fourth Judicial District) when I needed them to prepare an appeal brief, beause it was out for “scanning.” When it “got back” (what vendor did that go to, please….) I had to wait until many thousands of pages were printed out from a “scan.” This made my review quite lengthy and tedious. When lawyers review paper files, we can quickly move 40 pages to the side, when they are titled, and stapled. But when it is scanned and then printed, you end up going through every single page. It’s a real imposition to us.
And I don’t recall being asked, about any of this.
But here’s my point for now: how can the RFP be let in mid 2012, when the scanning was clearly occurring en masse in mid 2011?
How much, total, was paid to vendors for the Fourth Judicial District “digitization” project?
How much for the Second Judicial District?
For Dakota County?
Original post re Mark Thompson:
I began trying to talk to Mark Thompson, the Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court Administrator, at some point before 2006. I don’t recall precisely when I first tried to talk to him, but I know that by 2006, I was actively working to communicate with him.
I was requesting public records, and he, I was told, was the one who would know where they were (that is not verbatim, but that is the gist of it). I call, and stopped in, and called, and stopped in, and called, and stopped in. Never, not once, has he ever spoken to me.
His assistant, or the receptionist, someone will tell me some reason why I cannot talk to him.
I recall that once I got a voicemail message from him.
And I have gotten emails that have his name on the from line.
But I have never had a conversation with him – despite my numerous tries.
I wonder if he and Peter Ginder went to the same charm school.
At any rate, I tried again today to talk to Mark Thompson. I called Civil Filing and a clerk told me that they were not supposed to give out his number. That’s not verbatim, but that’s pretty close. I asked why. I was not satisfied with the response. Public officials are supposed to serve the public. Mark Thompson’s salary would indicate (to me, a member of the public) that he should be available to his public.
I specifically asked the clerk if she could look up his number. She went off the phone, but apparently instead of looking it up, she talked to her supervisor.
I then asked to speak to Lynn Fuchs, and she did talk to me.
I asked for Mark Thompson’s phone number. She claimed (and yes, this is really truly what she claimed) that she COULD NOT obtain Mark Thompson’s phone number. I asked her several times, in different ways. She persisted that (even though she is a supervisor in court administration) she was UNABLE to obtain Mark Thompson’s telephone number.
It was surely not believable to me.
I was directed to Cherie Nelson, who was described as Mark Thompson’s assistant, or his secretary. I telephoned her from my phone, and got a message that said “court administration” was not available and to leave a message. I then was transferred to her number from within the building, and got a message saying it was Cherie Nelson’s phone, and to leave a message.
I did leave a message.
I asked that she email me so that I could detail for her my public records requests.
It is now past 5 o’clock. I did not receive any email from her.
I don’t know the reason for that, but that’s the situation.
It has never been an easy path, requesting public documents from the Fourth Judicial District. I did not expect a rose garden. But I do expect to have my call returned, and I do expect the Fourth Judicial District Court Administrator to be availble for my phone call, if not immediately, at least to call me back when he is available.
Mark Thompson (I feel confident you will be told about this post), please ready the following documents:
1. All invoices from contractors for the digitization of court records (paper, microfiche, etc.) from 2008 to present. (And whatever documentation exists, Mr. Thompson, indicating that you or your staff approved payment.)
2. All contracts (all portions, including attachments, addenda, certificate, amendments, etc.) with contractors for the digitization of court records (paper, microfiche, etc.)
3. All documents showing the current location of paper files. (That is, if they are at contractor locations, or at the Fourth Judicial District.) All locations in which the Fourth Judicial District has kept paper files and microfiche since 2008 (such as City Hall, the Public Safety Center) and the security for those records while they were in executive branch control.
4. All documents evidencing written policies, practices, protocols, physical and electronic security for digital court records.
5. All court record retention policies that have been in place at any time, 2006 to present, and who or what created/authorized them.
Let’s start there. Please call me if you have questions. If you don’t have questions, I will assume that you are preparing these documents. Please let me know when they are ready. I do not expect to pay for research time for these documents. I would assume they are readily available to you. If you claim “research” is necessary, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the precise nature of the research, as well as the price for each portion of research. I do not believe that “research” charges should be used as a way to prevent the public from obtaining documents, and I don’t believe it is intended as cost-shifting.
Thanks, Mr. Thompson.
I look forward to working with you on this important project!