CHARLOTTE -- Many governmental bodies across North Carolina are knowingly violating state law, but say they can’t do anything about it including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
We’re talking about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Spectrum News requested all emails and texts from CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox regarding his selection of his executive management team in July. At issue was the hiring of Jody Francisco as Culinary Manager. He is the husband of Wilcox’s Chief of Staff, Laura Francisco.
The district eventually handed over hundreds of emails. There was not much in the emails showing any sort of wrongdoing.
However, when asked about the text messages, CMS Communications officials said they don’t keep those records, because they can’t.
It's been a technology problem more than a willingness to do that work problem,” IT Chief Derek Root, said. He came along with Dr. Wilcox to CMS from Maryland. “There hasn't been a decent tech solution to capture text messages up until recently.”
Not everyone is buying it.
“The failure to retain records is a clear violation of the law,” Jonathan Jones, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition, said. “Government agencies have been on notice that text messages are public record for more than a decade.”
Jones says they technology to capture the texts exists and has so for years now.
Root is now four months into his job and says they are working on it.
“When I started here in July this project was one of the first things I jumped on. We're weeks away from implementing a true solution that works like email,” Root said. “Us not being able to provide that almost looks like a cloud of ambiguity that's there. I like the idea of saying sure, here you go.”
Root hopes the new system to capture text messages will be in place by the beginning of January.
Several other school districts also do not retain text messages. The City of Charlotte requests users to save their own text messages and will screen capture them if/when presented with a FOIA request.