Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Civics Lesson of the Day

Suppose it is the middle of a city election and a voter wants to see who gave what to whom.  He goes down to City Hall and asks to see the campaign finance reports.  Unfortunately for him, he meets a clerk who tells him in typical bureaucratic fashion to file a public records request, wait a week, and pay a fee as well as a player to be named later.   Frustrated, he says fuggedaboutit and goes home.  However, the Ethics Commission ruled in March he has a right to see those reports right there on the spot - for free.

Leslie Sorrell, a Columbus resident, tried to obtain campaign finance reports for several municipal candidates in multiple years.  City employees played games in an effort to deprive her of the records.   The opinion provides a glimpse into the exchanges that took place between the Ms. Sorrell and staff: 

Finally, Ms. Sorrell provided a copy of an email exchange between herself and David Armstrong regarding a request for copies of 2017 campaign finance reports on March 25, 2021. In the email exchange, Mr. Armstrong asks “Just curious why you’re so interested in 2017?” Ms. Sorrell refused to explain, and on March 26, Mr. Armstong informed Ms. Sorrell that “There never was any confusion about your request. As I explained, I was simply curious. I recall that you have no sense of humor, but I never realized you were so rude. You will receive your information on the last minute of the last day it is due, and not a minute sooner.” *

Fed up, Ms. Sorrell and her husband went to City Hall on June 2, 2021 and asked to see the reports in person.  An employee said "we could not look at the campaign finance reports or get a copy until after the election."  (Oh, really?)


Ms. Sorrell took her cause to the Ethics Commission and filed a public records complaint.  The Commission ruled one does not have to file a public records request to see the campaign finance reports: 

However, some public records, such as campaign finance reports, or, for example, minutes of public bodies, are statutorily required to be maintained in a manner so as to be readily available to the public.¹ For these kinds of public records, an oral request and prompt access must be allowed. The Ethics Commission previously explored this issue in a prior case also involving the City of Columbus. In Public Records Case No. R-21-015, The Commercial Dispatch vs. City of Columbus, issued on December 9, 2021, the Ethics Commission noted that the Mississippi Election Code intends that campaign finance reports are to be available for inspection during regular business hours without the necessity of a written request. In that case the only violation occurred when the city clerk would not allow a newspaper reporter to photograph the reports....

2.6   If Ms. Sorrell had simply requested access to view the campaign finance reports in person, she should have been allowed to promptly view and personally copy (or photograph with her phone) the campaign finance reports, within the city’s operating hours.

Soooo.... next time you go to City Hall to see the campaign spending, bring a copy of the opinion in case you run into a clerk inspired by Regina in the Lost Claims Department.   You have a right to see those reports immediately and for free, right?

* The Rankin County School District asks for the reason for the public records request on its form but yours truly never fills it out.



Anonymous said...

Sounds good but ask for election finance reports in Jackson & you will be told “No, we are too busy to look those up”.

Anonymous said...

It's like the crime reports we aren't allowed to see anymore. Hizzoner doesn't want us to know about anything.

Anonymous said...

I've spoken with Mr. Armstrong before. It's odd that he says someone has no sense of humor and is rude. Pot meet kettle.

Anonymous said...

The Peoples’ Republic or China is more open than Mississippi Government.

Anonymous said...

So, when you ask a public official/lacky to see records you are entitled to view and he/she tells you "No", which they do all the time, can you have them arrested? If possible, that would help.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Kingfish. Thanks for this information we can all use.

Anonymous said...

Its a clown world and all levels of government are a circus.

And its just tolerated.

Anonymous said...

@8:31 AM, clearly FALSE.

Anonymous said...

July 26, 2022 at 8:31 AM

Damn, that hurt comrade!

Anonymous said...

The little people don't need to see these documents; they are for the ruling class only, but only if they are also members of a protected demographic.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be easier for these lackies/occasional "no-show employees" to say "it's not my yob?"

Anonymous said...

"The little people don't need to see these documents; they are for the ruling class only, but only if they are also members of a protected demographic."

You said it Bubba. . . uh, I mean you said it person.

Anonymous said...

David Armstrong chiding someone for rudeness and lack of a sense of humor is rich indeed.

Anonymous said...

My question is why corrective, punitive action is never taken against violators? Officials who do this no nothing is going to happen to them, and it will continue.

Anonymous said...

Is that the same David Armstrong who was mayor of Natchez?

Anonymous said...

I am going to fumble this a bit, so please bear with me.

Our politicians and members of the political and economic elite class do not have to deal with the petite bourgeoisie or petty bureaucrats like the rest of us mere mortals. Our politician class has never waited in line at, for example, the post office or driver's license bureau only to be told that one has waited in the wrong line for the last thirty minutes. They have staff to deal with it for them. Sometimes I think the petty bureaucrats take delight in frustrating mere members of the tax paying public. Has our political class ever had to wait in line at the doctor's office, or had to answer the same intake questions for the fourth time? One final thought, the members of the petit bourgeoise, either in the public or private sector, have no regard for the time of the "little people" (to quote Leona Helmsley).

I like to say that regular taxpaying folks have to routinely deal with "small persons in small positions of small power lording it over those they perceive to be beneath."

Anonymous said...

I assume you are talking about Jackson. I routinely looked at campaign finance reports for Hinds County of all places. Never had a problem.

Anonymous said...

KF isn’t a real journalist, he’s a blogger and JJ isn’t a real news site, it’s a blog.

Anonymous said...

11:25- This depends on who you ask. I personally have viewed more real Mississippi news on JJ than in the Clarion-Ledger and for that I give thanks to KF. I don't know if any money is being made but if so it is very deserving.

Anonymous said...

If there is a better choice for news in this state than JJ, please enlighten us.

BTW, this is not April 1 so do not submit Ms Today, Clarion-Ledger, WAPT, WLBT, etc.

Anonymous said...

Blog is just a platform, online publishing software.

KF is a real journalist.

You must be a progressive Democrat.

Anonymous said...

11:25 did not use racial slurs against KF so it can be Melvin.
New troll alert, I suppose.

County Cletus said...

Nothing to see because they don’t exist. It takes work and no one there does.

Anonymous said...

So where is ladumba’s list of contributors?

Anonymous said...

If I'm not mistaken, some clerk in every County Chancery office in the state will always wander over and ask what you're looking for and why.

"It's none of your business" is an appropriate response, when that occurs.

Although it's fine to ask for their assistance, it's not required that you do so. Those books, after all, belong to YOU. They are just paid to keep books...in other words, they're bookkeepers.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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