Following the destruction of records in Franklin County, North Carolina earlier in the year, this article from Texas seems worthy of sharing. It accounts the preservation of Harris County’s (Texas) fragile records by a group of willing volunteers in cooperation with the community — exactly what the Franklin County Historical Society tried to do — except in Franklin County, NC it didn’t work out because of ego’s, unimaginative leadership, and a lack of vision for future generation’s interest in and appreciation of the county’s rich heritage.
Tag Archives: Diane Taylor Torrent
In Defense of the North Carolina Archives and Their Role in the Franklin County Records Destruction Debacle
I have written a great deal about what happened in Franklin County on December 6, 2013. And I’ve stated some opinions (all my own) about the possible motivations, involvement of the myriad individuals, and the outcomes.
I’ve had a bit of fun at the expense of the Franklin County board and Angela Harris (Franklin County Manager), in particular – at whose feet I lay (about) 95% of the blame.
I’ve questioned the logic of the folks at the North Carolina Archives, for advising (strongly) the destruction of these records, without first undertaking a thorough investigation of what was in that basement, and for advising (in uber-strong language) that the records should not be given over to the Historical Society – since the NC Archives saw no value in them.
And, in my last post, I’ve had hearty belly-laugh at the time, expense, and general “head-space” this whole debacle has taken up at the archives. I still shake my head that these folks are so unbelievably unprepared and inept at handling a small (very small) crisis of this nature.
That said, the folks at NC Archives are not social media experts. Neither should they be. They are – for the most part – doing yeoman’s work in a field that makes most people yawn. I think their work is important, horribly underpaid, and badly understood – most notably by people like me.
I regret that their time has been taken up in dealing with this issue. In a more perfect world, their staff would have thought twice before writing the documents that I have called into question. In a better world they would have advised Patricia Chastain and the County Board to “do as they pleased”. In a better world – everyone would have communicated with and cooperated with everyone else thoroughly and respectfully.
Unfortunately we do not live in a better world.
All that said, I want to be clear. The NC Archives DID NOT DESTROY these documents. That was done at the Franklin County level – on an order given by Franklin County Manager, Angela Harris.
I’m done with this issue. The Historical Society can take it from here. The good people of Franklin County deserve better representation than the likes of Angela Harris and the Keystone Board that represent them – but I’m not their PR firm or their lobbying organization. I’ve done what I could to get the word out… My work is done.
It’s so rare that I actually get to see the machinations of the sausage factory at work – but tonight – we have a great, front row seat to the grinder, grinding away.
Apparently the folks at the North Carolina Archives are so discombobulated by the intensity of the reaction to their involvement in the wonton and pointless destruction of 150 year-old historical documents in Franklin County, North Carolina, that they put a staffer on the job of collecting, organizing and redistributing all the internet response (all they could find, given their sad skillset) back into their organization.
PLUS (and here’s where it gets REALLY fun), the document collection contains a few choice internal memos between staff, describing how they want to deal with the PR crisis, referencing their Public Relations firm (hired at how much per hour to troll Facebook and blogs and post positive comments in support of the NC Archives?)
I used to work in PR. We paid $400 per hour to do troll work like the troll work described and catalogued here. It was a cheap rate. I guarantee you that the NC Archives isn’t paying a cheap rate.
There are a TON of documents in this cache that detail their very “purposeful” response to the PR crisis. I started downloading docs as soon as I found the link, and I have to tell you – some of the materials are damned entertaining (lot’s of atta-boying and cross-agency support – plus a good view into who supports the NCArchives, no matter what… NCGS, are you listening?)
Enjoy the link folks. I promise you that if these people have one lick of sense between them – the link will be dead by tomorrow.
Talk about a lapse in SECURITY!!! Google Docs? Are You Kidding Me????
If the link goes bad, I’ll post some of the more choice documents with (my always acerbic) commentary. So HOPE the links goes bad!
By now all readers of this blog are at least somewhat familiar with the Franklin County Records Destruction saga – which is still a developing story with more details and an ever lengthening paper trail.
For anyone who needs a recap, you can catch up here: More Details on the Franklin Co., NC Records Destruction
See all my posts on the subject at the following Tags: “Franklin County” (and don’t forget to hit the link, “older posts”, when you reach the bottom of the page.)
Since the destruction of the records in Franklin County, the story has gone viral. I’ve been blogging it since December. On my blog alone I’ve logged more than 250,000 unique visitors to the pages dedicated to this story. This, on a little, homespun weblog that previously has not seen more than 65 visitors in a single day. During the peak of this story, my blog hosted 100,000 unique visitors in a single day. These statistics prove that this is a very BIG story, not just in North Carolina. Not just in the United States – but internationally. I can only imagine what other, more established web sites are seeing in terms of visits and page-views. It must be staggering.
And yet, the folks at the NC Archives, the County Manager and Board of Commissioners in Franklin County, North Carolina can’t seem to get it through their thick skulls that what happened on that Friday night in December has OUTRAGED millions of people all over the world.
In January, at the last meeting of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners, the community showed up and simply lambasted the board and County Manager Angela Harris. (See a video of a portion of the meeting here.) Members of the community demanded an explanation. They demanded an apology. They demanded Ms. Harris’s resignation. What they got was a whole lot of nothing.
Ms. Harris stated at that meeting that she would draft a written response to the questions posed to her.
A written response!? After months of stonewalling and silence and buck-passing and obfuscation!? After unilaterally making the decision to incinerate 150 years’ worth of historical material!?
Are you kidding me??????!!!!!! How about a written resignation?????
And so… Ms. Angela Harris finally speaks. It took her more than a week after that meeting to draft the following “response”. Almost two months after choosing to burn books and documents that many in the community were ready, willing, and able to save, preserve, and make available to research.
I will say this about her “written response”. I have not seen a sadder example of arrogance, in combination with willful ignorance, in combination with near-criminal incompetence, demonstrated in public since the Gulf Coast/BP Oil spill, when former BP CEO Tony Hayward offered up the following; “The first thing to say is I’m sorry.” And then he continued, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?”
Angela Harris seems to be taking her political/damage control cues from the Tony Hayward School of Arrogant Executive Mis-Management. Except she didn’t even offer up the insincere, perfunctory apology!!!!
In the coming days, after my head ceases hurting from looking at this gigantic PIECE OF BULLSHIT, I will craft a suitable “written response” to her “written response”. I promise, it will be a choice piece of prose.
If you can read the following from the pen of Angela Harris without your head exploding – by all means – DIVE IN!
The original of this statement appeared at Franklin County News Online, on January 16, 2014. (http://fcnonews.blogspot.com/2014/01/county-manager-angela-l-harris-letter.html)
“After careful consideration and reflection of the chain of events that led to the disposal of county and state records on December 06, 2013, and with great concern for the citizens of Franklin County who have experienced disappointment over this matter, I am providing the following summary.
Early in her tenure (exact date uncertain,) newly appointed Clerk of Court, Patricia Chastain visited the County Administration Building and stopped by Chuck Murray’s office (Director of Finance and General Administration) where Mr. Murray and I were meeting. The Clerk of Court, Ms. Chastain made reference to North Carolina Archives wanting to come to Franklin County, but she was “trying to hold them off” (I believe was her statement) until Heritage Society members could go through documents stored in the basement. The basis of her concern was that Archives would take certain items and leave others behind. I expressed on this date and a number of times thereafter that I would recommend seeking the guidance of Archives and fully disclosing the goal of maintaining records (or copies) locally. (Note: I would later learn that officials from Archives had proposed to the Clerk of Court the dates of June 10, 12 or 13 for a visit and initial survey; alternate dates were the week of June 17 and June 24.) The Clerk of Court indicated she would have Heritage members sign a confidentiality statement. I expressed concern that individuals unrelated to the court would be going through her files and advised her to seek guidance on this matter.
Note: Later, the question was raised about the County Attorney drafting a statement for the volunteers. The County Attorney and I discussed and agreed this was the Clerk’s matter; therefore, I advised the Clerk of the importance of her seeking appropriate guidance from her superiors.
The Clerk of Court inquired of county staff about the availability of space so that Heritage Members could work on sorting documents. I am uncertain of the exact date she began to inquire about this. Again, I proposed she seek guidance within her system about the project. Space was identified and on August 05, 2013, the Board of Commissioners supported paying utilities for a period up to six months. Utilities were turned on August 08, 2013 (cut off on November 04, 2013) at the space identified.
On August 14, 2013 Mr. Murray emailed Register of Deeds Brandi Davis “I think it would be smart to tell Heritage Society not to touch any of the ROD’s records until you guys have a chance to go through them.” He advised me he was concerned about confidentiality.
In meeting on August 14, 2013 a local citizen made me aware she had been in the basement with Ms. Diane Taylor Torrent from the Heritage Society. She expressed she was surprised Ms. Torrent had a key to the basement since she was not an employee (court or County). I had concerns regarding confidentiality of the County records and followed up with the Clerk of Court the next day. Some of these records were confidential and should not be handled by unauthorized personnel.
On August 15, 2013 the Register of Deeds emailed the Clerk of Court advising she and the Finance Director visited the basement on August 12, 2013 to see what records were in the basement or had been removed. In her email she advised she had contacted Archives for assistance. She advised the Clerk of Court in her email that Tom Vincent with Archives had informed her that ‘until Archives gave final approval, the Heritage Society should not have access to these records.’ Ms. Davis advised the Clerk of Court the Heritage Society should be “put on hold.” Ms. Davis was attempting to schedule a time for Archives to assist her with her records. Ms. Davis later advised me Mr. Vincent had not heard back from the Clerk of Court in reference to scheduling a visit to the County.
Note: Prior to this date, Ms. Davis understood there were no Register of Deeds records in the basement. Ms. Davis possessed two postcards with information regarding items that had been shredded in 2000. On the bottom of one postcard was the statement “NOTHING IS STORED IN OLD COURTHOUSE NOW.” Other information on the postcards read “DESTROYED AMENDMENT APPLICATIONS AND DELAYED BIRTH CERTIFICATE APPLICATIONS FROM 1968 thru 1994. BY SHREDDING IN JULY 2000.” Additionally, one card stated “Destroyed Financing Statement index Books (4) from 1982-1991 A-Z which were stored. Another statement read “Destroyed Marriage License Stubs from 1962 thru 1994.”
Later in the day, on August 15, 2013 I met with the Clerk of Court to discuss my concerns, one of which was confidentiality of certain records. On this date, I also discussed the State issued Record Retention and Disposition policy. Mr. Murray later emailed retention guidelines to the Clerk of Court and Ms. Torrent. I was aware Archives had attempted contact with the Clerk of Court in order to arrange a site visit. I urged Ms. Chastain to contact Archives and schedule the visit and later that day she did.
The Clerk of Court emailed Tom Vincent (Local Records Supervisor- Records Analysis Unit with NC Department of Cultural Resources) regarding Franklin County Archival Records. In her email she wrote, “I am finally settling in and getting back to this matter” in response to her original contact of May 29, 2013 setting up a potential meeting in June, 2013.
On August 21, 2013 Mr. Vincent and Carie Chesarino (Records Analyst) examined the basement of the Franklin County Courthouse. The follow up report indicated “the records in the storage room are in extremely bad condition.” A copy of their preliminary findings is available in the Manager’s office. The conclusion section of the report stated “the amount of dirt and mold in the storeroom make it hazardous for anyone to spend any amount of time in there.”
On August 22, 2013 Mr. Vincent followed up via email with the Ms. Davis regarding giving the delayed birth applications to the Heritage Society. He stated “I’m really uncomfortable with official copies of anything having to do with vital records being outside of government custody.” He went on to reference GS 130A-93(b) and advised “the retention period for the delayed birth applications is only 1 year, so you can get rid of those.”
On September 20, 2013, Ms. Davis emailed Becky McGee-Lankford (Manager, Government Records Section, Assistant State Records Administrator) regarding “delayed birth certificates and a trash bag of health certificates that used to be used to obtain a marriage license years ago.” She sought guidance regarding their destruction. On October 01, 2013 Ms. McGee-Lankford responded with instructions for destruction and/or retention. Note: Marriage Health Certificates contained “certificates from a regularly licensed physician stating that no evidence of venereal disease, tuberculosis in the infectious or communicable state, or mental incompetence was found in the applicants.” This information is confidential.
On the evening of October 01, 2013, I noted the Clerk and Ms. Torrent were standing outside of the basement area. They stated they had been working on an inventory for Archives. I stated to the Clerk of Court that while the preliminary report from Archives did reference an inventory, it was my understanding we were to “cease and desist” until a representative from health and safety with the Administrative Office of the Courts made a site visit. The Clerk stated her guidance was to do an inventory. My understanding was Archives had initially stated “if” an inventory existed, they wanted a copy; however, the Health and Safety Inspector would be making a site visit and further activity should cease in the interim. I advised the Clerk of Court she may want to follow up on this issue rather than continuing to be in the basement.
On October 11, 2013 the Clerk of Court forwarded a copy of an inventory to Mr. Vincent (NC Archives) and copied Ms. Chesarino (Records Analyst) and Ms. Torrent (Heritage Society member). Ms. Chesarino forwarded a copy to Ms. Davis who in turn provided me a copy.
On October 18, 2013 Ms. Chesarino emailed Ms. Davis in reference to 3 Register of Deeds Fee Book Ledgers – 1940’s, Numerous Blank Real Estate Ledgers. In Ms. Chesarino’s email she stated, “although these records should be destroyed, it is my opinion that the space is unsafe. Sarah West is an environmental health inspector at the Administrative Office of the Courts. She has an appointment to inspect the basement at 9 a.m. on Monday 10/21. I will accompany her on this visit. While we’re there, she could give you advice on the logistics for safe disposal of the remaining Register of Deeds records.”
On October 29, 2013 Ms. McGee-Lankford (Government Records…NC Archives) emailed the following reports, copies of which are on file in the Office of County Manager:
(1) preliminary report from the 08/21/13 visit by NC Archives
(2) records inventory provided by the Clerk of Court
(3) report completed by Safety and Health Specialist, Sarah West with NC Administrative of the Courts
(4) letter from Ms. McGee-Lankford. In Ms. Mcgee-Lankford’s email she writes “Based on the inventory provided by the Clerk of Superior Court (see attached) and notes taken by Division of Archives and Records staff (see attached), as well as the environmental assessment provided by Sarah C. West of the Administrative Office of the Courts (see attached),” it is the recommendation of the State Archives of North Carolina that all records listed above be destroyed using proper protocol. The letter grants each of you authorizations to destroy the records in the custody of your office. We urge you to take immediate action to destroy these records. No other disposition is advised, including the donation of the records to a non-government entity for any reason. The health and safety issue concerning these records outweighs all other considerations. Ms. West does an excellent job detailing these health and safety concerns in her report.”
Ms. McGee-Lankford reiterated the above and adds in her letter, “The State Archives would have taken some of these records in accordance with established disposition instructions. However, due to the ongoing health and safety issues these records pose to the staff and general public that have access to them, we are requesting that these records be destroyed by the county office responsible for the records. The Clerk of Court will need to seek permission from Sean Bunn at NCAOC to destroy, in addition to the permission to destroy we are granting in this letter. Please prepare an appropriate written Request for Destruction of Records Form AOC-A-119 to be faxed . . .” Further Ms. McGee-Lankford writes “These records should be destroyed as soon as possible per North Carolina Administrative Code, Title 7, Subchapter M, Section .0510:”
a) burned, unless prohibited by local ordinance
b) shredded, or torn up so as to destroy the record content of the documents or material concerned
c) placed in acid vats so as to reduce the paper to pulp and to terminate the existence of the documents or materials concerned
d) buried under such conditions that the record nature of the documents or materials will be terminated
e) sold as waste paper, provided that the purchaser agrees in writing that the documents or materials concerned will not be resold as documents or records
Ms. McGee-Lankford stated “due to the health risk presented by the records in question, it is recommended that great care be taken in disposing of these records in order to prevent the further spread of mold spores.” Further she stated, “ Our agency does not typically authorize the destruction of records scheduled to come to the State Archives, however, due to the health and safety issues expressed during our initial meeting with county officials (see attached report) and Mrs. West’s report (see attached report) detailing the mold hazard present on and around these records, we are authorizing the destruction of all of the records listed above. Ms. West states in her report ‘I feel that the more these records are disturbed the more the toxins become airborne.”
On October 30, 2013, I instructed Mr. Murray to have Glen Liles (Public Facilities Director) execute the recommendations of Sarah West (Health & Safety Inspector with Administrative Office of the Courts) regarding Courthouse needs.
On November 04, 2013 at a Board of Commissioners meeting, I reported on the status of the site visits made by State officials to Franklin County. I advised the Board of the need to immediately destroy the records due to environmental health concerns. The matter was discussed again with the Board on November 18, 2013. Reports from NC Archives and the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts were emailed to the Board of Commissioners on November 07, 2013.
On November 05, 2013 the Clerk of Court and I participated in a conference call with Ms. Chesarino from Archives. The purpose of the call was to receive specific guidance regarding certain records brought to my attention. The Clerk was provided instruction to photograph said items and Ms. Chesarino agreed to follow up upon receipt of information from the Clerk. On November 15, 2013 Ms. Chesarino emailed feedback concerning those documents to the County Manager and Clerk of Court. The feedback received stated “upon examining the photographs provided, it has been determined that the documents in question are not of administrative, legal, evidentiary, or historical value and should be destroyed along with the rest of the records that had been stored in the basement of the Franklin County Courthouse.”
During the conference call, it was also discussed an inventory was done by NC Archives in 1964. The Clerk of Court made reference to this inventory during our call. I was pleased to learn this had been done. Later that day, Ms. Chesarino emailed me relevant pages of a 1964 inventory of Franklin County official records which included the retention requirements for each category.
On November 15, 2013, the Clerk of Court completed AOC-A-119 “Request for Approval for Destruction of Records” which certified the records listed can be destroyed. She further certified the records had been microfilmed or scanned and were appropriate for destruction. The Administrative Office of the Courts approved the destruction request on November 21, 2013. The Clerk of Court provided me with a copy of the approved request for destruction in order that the County could destroy the Court records when County records were to be destroyed. Please see a copy of the attached approved request.
On November 25, 2013 Mr. Murray emailed the Clerk of Court to advise that a company had been identified to clean the basement and he wanted to make sure the following week was acceptable. On December 02, 2013 Mr. Murray emailed the Clerk of Court again in reference to cleaning the basement. His email read “Is it ok to clean the basement out this weekend?” The next day the Clerk of Court responded via email “Sure it is. I just need to know when and time so I can be here and have it open.”
On December 04, 2013 Mr. Liles emailed Mr. Murray to advise he had spoken with the Clerk of Court December 03, 2013 regarding the destruction of the documents. Mr. Liles indicated he informed the Clerk of Court of the time schedule and said she was “glad to know we were moving forward.”
On December 05, 2013, the Board of Commissioners were advised in an email that “Builder Services of North Carolina (Restoration Experts) would be removing and properly disposing of items (records) as well as cleaning the basement beginning the afternoon of December 06, 2013.” Note: Mr. Glen Liles worked this schedule out so as not to inconvenience the citizens since the area would be blocked off and would have caused parking/logistic problems. The project began around 4:00 p.m. and would last overnight and into the weekend.
On December 06, 2013 Builder Services began work on removing documents and other contaminated materials from the basement. The area was cleaned, tested and sealed. Ms. West, Health and Safety Inspector with the North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts, advised nothing else should be placed in this area after it was sealed. I reminded the Clerk of Court of this instruction due to the fact the area was not climate controlled and would become contaminated again. The Clerk of Court indicated it was her understanding it could again be used after it was sealed. I suggested she review the recommendation from Ms. West. In a later conversation, she stated she would not place any records in the basement.
Kevin Cherry, Phd, Deputy Secretary, Director Office of Archives and History wrote a letter to the editor of The Franklin Times responding to an earlier article in the paper concerning the destruction of County records. Mr. Cherry commented on the history (110 years) of the State Archives of NC, an agency “charged by statute with the management of all state and local government records created and retained during the normal course of business within North Carolina government offices.” Further, he pointed out that “established professional standards within the state and the archival field across the country” were utilized in reviewing/appraising the records. He pointed out the fact that many records were decades past their retention date, many documents were “duplicates, confidential, drafts, or duplicated in another records series that has been saved.” Additionally, it was noted Archives has over 1,066 microfilm reels of permanently valuable Franklin County records.
I hope these facts demonstrate the destruction of records was necessary in order to protect the health and safety of our citizens and staff. Access to confidential records would have posed additional liability issues for the County. In retrospect, I believe if arrangements had been made for the site visits proposed by Archives officials to the Clerk of Court on May 29, 2013, the final determination could have been made sooner and a great deal of confusion and disappointment would have been avoided.”
A reader forwarded the following letter to me, with a request that I post it. I contacted the author – Pam Smith, of Manassas, Virginia – and was gratified to receive her permission to post it here. It’s an excellent letter and one that I believe we can all support.
Finally, some mainstream media coverage on the Franklin County Records Destruction Debacle.
The N&O does an “okay” job of getting the facts right, but they let Angela Harris completely off the hook, and they completely neglected to mention the fact that the destruction of records took place clandestinely, after regular business hours, and with no notification to the parties involved. I give them a C-minus on thoroughness.
Row over destroyed Franklin County records goes viral
By Sarah Barr – firstname.lastname@example.org
January 14, 2014
LOUISBURG — The story of a decision to destroy a long-neglected collection of records discovered in the moldy basement of the Franklin County courthouse has raced across blogs and social media in recent weeks.
Online readers from around the world have joined local residents in debating whether county officials should have destroyed the records, which dated from the mid-1800s to the 1960s. For most, the answer is no, despite a long list of reasons from professional archivists about why the records weren’t essential to keep.
‘Burngate’ Sparks Calls for Manager’s Resignation
By: CAREY JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
LOUISBURG — Residents upset with the county manager’s decision to burn historic documents called upon her to produce at least one piece of paperwork — her letter of resignation.
County Manager Angela Harris didn’t comply with that request, but she did tell commissioners and the public that she would craft a letter detailing her decision to destroy documents that were being housed in the Franklin County Courthouse basement.
“I think that would be helpful to the board and the community,” Harris said during the board’s meeting on Monday night.
Her response came after members of the Franklin County Heritage Society lambasted the county’s decision to destroy courthouse records on the weekend beginning Dec. 6.
In the spring, the historic preservation group began reviewing documents kept in the courthouse basement after newly appointed Clerk of Court Patricia Burnette Chastain came across the weathered storage area and asked the group for advice on how to preserve and catalog the information.
The volunteer group, with assistance from the county, procured a place to store the documents and the Heritage Society had plans to digitize the documents.
Between the spring and fall, though, staff with the State Office of Archives and History, and the Administrative Office of the Courts reviewed some of the documents and examined the basement — advising county staff that the documents could be destroyed, after they were inventoried, and the basement needed to be cleaned.
Heritage Society staff told commissioners and county staff that they were willing to fully inventory the documents, at their own risk, and catalog the information.
However, the state and county staff contended that the mold on some documents and inside the basement was too much of a risk.
The county and state also contended that some of the basement documents held sensitive information — some of the documents kept in the basement included old social services paperwork.
As a result, the county paid Builder Services about $7,400 to box up the remaining documents, burn them at the county’s animal control shelter, and clean the basement.
That work began at about 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 — a Friday — and continued through that weekend.
The decision was not made during a public meeting and no notification went out prior to the cleanup effort.
“We were told nothing about the destruction,” said Heritage Society Member Annette Goyette, who was part of an initial group of society members to begin examining the documents.
Goyette noted that Harris told her she would be kept abreast of the county’s actions, but did not hear anything about the destruction and hasn’t heard from Harris since.
“We feel like we need a public apology to amend the insults,” Goyette said during the public comment portion of the board’s meeting on Monday night.
“The records are gone,” she said. “We have to accept that.
“But we have to make sure this never happens again.”
Resident Roger Lytle, who has been vocal about the county’s handling of the documents, said Harris’ sudden and swift actions — in defiance of public efforts to save the documents — brings into question Harris’ ability to continue as county manager.
“People are angry about the destruction of these records,” said Lytle, noting that it has gone beyond Franklin County.
Thanks to the Internet, the matter has gone global and has placed a stain on the county that would impact its ability to attract new business and industry, he said.
Ultimately, he said, it all falls back on Harris’ ability to manage the county.
“She failed to do her job,” Lytle said of Harris. “It brings into question her ability.
“And the question is, does she need to be removed?”
Resident Mary Ella Hutchinson was just as blunt. She said the answer to Lytle’s question was ‘yes.’
“I’m publicly calling for the resignation of the county manager,” she said.
She was particularly perturbed by the county’s decision to rely upon advice from state agencies, like Archives, but not respond to residents who elected them.
“We elected you and you owe us some answers,” she said.
Resident Steve Trubilla expressed his exasperation because he said neither county staff nor county commissioners appeared to answer for anything.
He’s asked questions in person and through letters — none of which garnered a response.
“I don’t often attend these meetings anymore because I don’t feel like I’m welcome anymore,” he said. “Are you going to answer (anyone’s) questions?”
Commission Chair Sidney Dunston said the board was not going to engage in a back-and-forth debate during the meeting.
Resident Dee Sams said the leadership of the county and the approach they are taking, exemplified by the courthouse document decision, is harming the county.
“Who knows what we lost?” said Sams. A complete inventory of documents was not completed before the destruction was authorized.
“It’s an absolute travesty.
“Franklin County has gotten a seedy reputation and this does not help.
“… Something needs to happen because of that.”
The only commissioner to speak, Harry Foy, said he was in support of volunteer efforts to save the courthouse documents and a decision to destroy them never came to the board for a vote, he said.
After that, Harris told commissioners and the public that she would prepare a written response regarding the incident.
It was not clear when that response would be made public. The board next meets on Jan. 21.
I rarely reblog, but this one provides a nice recap of what’s gone on in Franklin County. Yours truly is cited as a source, and linked to from the article.
Franklin County Commissioners Meeting in which Angela Harris (County Manager) and commissioners, faced questions from their public.
Franklin County Commissioners Meeting in which Angela Harris (County Manager) and commissioners, faced ANGRY questions from their public.
“It didn’t come up to no vote. I can answer that one. I knew we didn’t vote on that one. Not that I know of. I hope Ms. Angela Harris will try to communicate with them how you made that decision or who told you to…?”
– A Franklin County Commissioner Harry L. Foy
Please re-tweet this at #losthistory
Just a few moments ago a reader posted a comment to one of my posts on the Franklin County subject. Instead of having his point of view – which is first person to the incident, and richly detailed – buried in comments, I felt his story needed PAGE ONE exposure.
I am not endorsing this post. I have no personal experience with this person. But in the context of transparency and freedom of expression, I’m going to go ahead and put this out there, even though I realize some of his positions are inflammatory and will upset some people (in high places, particularly.)
“I have been intimately involved with this issue, and can tell , IN MY OPINION, 1st hand, the new Clerk of Courts, Patrician Burnette Chastian took prudent and serious action to protect these records.
In my opinion, she did what no other official in office or county executive would do. She demonstrated great moral courage by standing for this.
She pleaded that the records not be destroyed. I believe she was betrayed by others that may have told her it would not be done.
The records were removed under the cover of darkness late on a Friday. The burning of the records began that evening or over the weekend with out notice to anyone empowered to stop it.
I now believe these records may have contained evidence of dark secrets.
Chastian found the records upon taking office. It was one of many serious problems she uncovered.
An example is hundreds of thousands, if not in excess of a million dollars of repairs required to the court house due to neglect.
Franklin County is suffering major economic stagnation and is close to the bottom of North Carolina’s state economic rating system.
There is no way they can afford this.
The condition of the court house was so bad trees were literately growing into the building. It has been reported black mold is on books in the law library.
Another issue is that of countless cases of property foreclosures that may not have been properly done. There are allegations of people losing their homes.
It has been said the new clerk of courts has had to file hundreds of documents to address a daunting back log of issues.
Chastian was appointed to office when Alice Faye Hunter inexplicably announced her immediate retirement. Many questions remain as to why she did this.
I personally spoke with the records office in Raleigh. I was given assurances the records would not be summarily destroyed. In fact I was told they could not be because that office now had control over them.
Yet they were burned.
The explanations and or excuses now be offered, to me, appear to be, more damage control and “cover yourself” than anything else.
The Franklin County Heritage Society tried to move mountains to save these records. They are “unsung heroes”
I do not know how anyone can say there was nothing of historical significance destroyed.
Early on evening the records were removed for destruction I was personally in the room. With my own eyes I saw many boxes of records containing documents is “sealed” envelopes. These records were not contaminated with mold.
There is no way anyone can say what was in those envelopes, no way!
I have knowledge that organizations from out of state offered to take possession of the records at no cost to Franklin County.
The Franklin County Historical Society offered to take custody of the records at no cost to the county. They said they would sign waivers of any liability.
I believe there is now an effort by officials to bury this story.
I attended a county commissioners meeting on 6 Jan 2014 where the officials refused to answer questions on this. Only one commissioner pressed for answers; commissioner Harry Foy. When he voiced this the other commissioners remained silent.
This is but one of countless very troublesome stories in Franklin County, NC. Citizens are continually voicing a lack of confidence in elected officials and county executives. Some have called for many resignations.
I have been told more people would come forward with questions but they fear the consequences of doing so
There is an estimated over $900,000 gift from the late Mr. Edgar Owens to build a park that is shrouded in secrecy for now over three years.
For reasons unexplained a multi-million dollar expansion of the NOVANT hospital is being blocked.
It has been reported that some of these issues have been reported to the local district attorney but he has not responded.
He has announced his retirement.
The county finance director has now also announced his retirement. Initially it was reported he has resigned, giving a 30 day notice.
Add to this a past Sheriff going to prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then there are the every growing other cases of missing funds.
There is also the Shannon Nyamodi story. http://thepeopleschampion.me/north-carolina-unjustly-holds-black-man-captivity-habeas-corpus-filed-free-shannon-nyamodi-bizarre-murder-hire-case/
What is the rest of the story on the records?
If you are reading this anywhere in America please do not let this story be buried. Join in the effort to bring more national attention to it.
These kind of things need to stop in our county.
“We the People” are asking Patriots to stand.
“Together we are many”