Wednesday night, as I was writing the two posts that went up yesterday, I sort of assumed that the gap between the first post and the second post would be filled with a deafening silence from the Secretary of State’s Office. I mean, there wasn’t a whole lot that they could say, you know? The facts were what they were, so it would mainly be an argument over interpretation, which didn’t seem like the type of thing that a constitutional officer should bother engaging in vis-a-vis a blogger.
[Note to self: stop overestimating Mark Martin’s ability to shut up and hope the storm blows by.]
It appears, rather than going the “say nothing” route, the Secretary’s Office went ahead and gave their side of the story to the Tolbert Report. According to what Alice Stewart told Tolbert, with the exception of capital police staff or grounds crew personnel who have a vehicle assigned to them, no staff is allowed state owned vehicles for personal usage.
And how does Ms. Stewart know? Because:
Secretary of State vehicles are checked out of the pool if needed for a specific business purpose.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but I read this statement as suggesting that there are written/electronic logs which would support Ms. Stewart’s assertion. I mean, how in the world can you be sure that no one is misusing the vehicles and that the vehicles are checked out from the pool if you don’t have documentation that would tell you such things?
wait a second.
Thinking back to my previous posts, I’ve already asked Ms. Stewart for such documentation. Remember?
[/cue flashback music]
As part of my request, I asked for:
1. All mileage and fuel logs for the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid purchased from Lewis Ford on or about 1/26/11, along with a complete list of all locations where the vehicle has been driven and a list of all persons who have used the vehicle.
When I picked up the rest of my documents, there was nothing to fulfill this part of the request, so I followed up and asked about the omission. The office’s response?
We don’t keep logs on the vehicles, so there are no documents for this request.
Also, earlier this week, I requested:
2. All SoS lists, spreadsheets, or other documentation regarding the borrowing, checking-out, or temporary/permanent assignment of SoS-owned vehicles.
For which I was told:
As I have said, we do not keep logs on SoS vehicles.
Now, just so we are all on the same page, keep in mind that all of the statements I have received regarding logs for Secretary of State vehicles have come directly from Alice Stewart. Which means … what, exactly?
Well, best I can tell, there are three possible explanations for Ms. Stewart’s comments to Jason.
First, it’s entirely possible that there are no logs, and Stewart is simply assuming that there’s no misuse of state vehicles and that no vehicles are being taken home by employees who are not supposed to do so. Of course, if this is the explanation, then Stewart is engaging in speculation and conjecture, and her statement lacks any legitimate support. And her assertion really becomes questionable when you throw in the statement that Stewart made to Tolbert about how Martin and Matayo are not taking state vehicles home, which I think we already covered pretty thoroughly.
The second explanation for Stewart’s statements are that she is lying to Tolbert. Which is to say, she was telling me the truth that there are no logs that would support her position or answer my questions, and she was just pretending that there were in the hopes that Jason would not ask to see them. I would hate to think that this was the case, as Jason is a very nice fellow with a sunny disposition. As Republicans go, he’s pretty great. Why would someone lie to a pretty great (for a Republican) guy?
The final explanation, of course, is the most troubling. Specifically, it’s possible that Stewart was telling Tolbert the truth and lying to me when she said that there were no logs. Unfortunately (for the Secretary’s Office), this means that Stewart knowingly failed to comply with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, which is, as you may know, a crime. I would hate to think that this is the case. But, then … none of the possible answers is real spectacular for that office, huh?
Anyway, in an effort to get to the bottom of all of this, last night I submitted an FOIA request to Stewart for “[t]he documentation [she] referred to when [she] told Jason Tolbert that the pool vehicles were checked out when they were used by staff.”
I know! I’m as curious as you are!
One additional note about the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid: on Thursday, April 21, 2010, I stopped by the Capitol during my lunch break. I’d recently reviewed the documentation provided by Martin to Joe Woodson of the Board of Apportionment, which include the year, make, model, and license plate number of the Hybrid. As I was wandering around, I noticed the vehicle…
parked in Doug Matayo’s parking space. (I verified that this was Matayo’s space by requesting a detailed parking-assignment map later.)
The following morning, at 7:47 a.m., I sent my first FOIA request to the Secretary of State’s Office, requesting, in pertinent part, detailed documentation regarding the Hybrid. Later that day, again on my lunch hour, I went back to the Capitol. Lo and behold, the Hybrid was not parked in Matayo’s space. Rather, it was parked in a space behind the Capitol Hill Apartments.
Since that day, I’ve checked the Capitol parking lots seven times, both on weekends and during lunch on weekdays. Literally every single time, the Hybrid has been in that parking space, apparently unmoved. It does not matter the weather, the day of the week, or the time of day — the Hybrid remains stationary.
Now, the credit card receipts that I already have do not include late April, so I have no way of knowing (yet!) if there are gas records that would make additional use prior to the first BHR FOIA obvious. What I do know is that, since the morning that I sent the first request, it would appear that the Hybrid is suddenly not being used.
Coincidence? Possibly. But, knowing what I now know about that office, I’m more inclined to chalk that stationary Hybrid up to another overreactive freak-out by
Mike Donnelly Mark Martin.