By Richard Sullins | firstname.lastname@example.org
With just days to go until the May primary, Republican Lee County Board of Education candidate Kenna Wilson has filed a public record request for all email records relating to Patrick Kelly. , a sitting Democratic council member who is not running for office this year.
Wilson’s expansive request includes “historic emails and/or other electronic communications generated since he became a board member.” I also requested all emails and other electronic communications generated prior to his election to the school board, including those generated when Mr. Kelly was working on the campus of Lee County High School as a College and Career Promise counselor. This would include the time he was campaigning,” she said in a statement to The diatribe.
Wilson’s claim could potentially include thousands of emails sent or received by Kelly, as well as others that mentioned him. She said while she understood her request was broad, she was looking for role models who would point to what she thinks are hidden issues in the school system, and said she thinks Kelly might be at the center of them. .
“As a candidate, I believe the patterns found in governance, performance data, and operations tell a bigger story about schools in Lee County. The big picture in Lee County schools has often been clouded by public relations efforts aimed at convincing the community that “all is well” as trends over time tell us that all is not well for all students,” she said.
Four Republicans are running in the May 17 primary for three places in the November ballot.
Kelly will not run again until 2024. He was first elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020.
Although she was vague about what she hopes to find in the emails, Wilson was candid about why she was looking for them.
“Patrick Kelly is not up for re-election, but based on my own experiences with Mr. Kelly during my role as Superintendent of Lee County Schools, I know the division he brings to the school board,” said she declared. “Parents, educators and community members are done with division. As a candidate who hopes to bring honesty and openness to the council if elected, I want to do as much research as possible on current issues with this council.
This isn’t Wilson’s first public records request with Lee County schools. She acknowledged that she had already tabled another regarding initiatives, expenditures and budgetary matters.
Wilson said she understands it may take some time to comply with her request. With the possibility of thousands of email records being involved, each of these records will need to be identified by IT staff at the Lee County Schools District Office. Once identified, each will then need to be reviewed for its contents to ensure that it can be released under the provisions of the North Carolina Public Records Act (Chapter 132 of the General Statutes). Wilson said she was prepared to pay the costs associated with the search “if the cost of the copies becomes onerous.”
There is no separate regulation on how long an e-mail should be retained by public bodies. As with paper documents, the rules for what should be kept and for how long depend on the content of the document. In some cases, emails should not be kept at all, such as general announcements to all staff or those from mailing lists. Some state documents, however, must be kept for 10 years or more, again depending on their content.
In some cases where emails created by board members or employees of Lee County Schools relate to staffing issues or individual students, they would need to be reviewed by school board attorney Stephen Rawson of the Raleigh Tharrington Smith Company. If so, Mr. Rawson’s hourly rate for work performed on behalf of the Board is $235 per hour.
Wilson believes her request for Kelly’s emails is a first step in restoring trust in the school board.
“He is exactly the board member one would expect to provide a window into the issues plaguing the functioning of our school board. It is important to know how Mr. Kelly, other board members and our superintendent have resolved several issues over the years,” she said. “Trust in our board is gone for many. The only way to regain trust is to ask tough questions and have district leadership be prepared to answer those questions. I believe the information I am requesting will provide insight into school board governance.
Kelly has faced separate action against him by another Republican candidate in recent weeks. Alan Rummel, who is also in the running for one of four places in the November poll, filed an ethics complaint requesting an investigation of Kelly during a heated exchange between the two at a board committee meeting. This request failed to gain the necessary votes to move forward.
For his part, Kelly said he intends to continue his work as a board member.
“As I always have been, I remain focused on how Lee County schools can best meet the needs of students and parents and provide opportunities for teachers and staff,” he said. . “Important issues are facing the school board. I will continue to foster a spirit of cooperation, not distracted by partisan attacks so that we can build together on the great successes of schools in Lee County.
Early voting for the primary ended on Saturday. Election day is Tuesday.