Let’s Commit Citizen Journalism! [UPDATED, again]

SpaceyG wants your help. We should do it. Here’s the gist: after the firing of the Riverkeeper lady from the DNR Board because she was a lobbyist, SpaceyG wants to see who else has been appointed by the Governor to boards, etc. and might be a lobbyist. But, the Governor’s office won’t release the list despite it being a public record. I think I might need to break out my Esquire and fire off an open records request.

In any event, let’s get to work on this project. This is from SpaceyG’s post:

Wilson and I want to get a master list of the 300 Governor appointees to state boards for 2007, and just run a quick lil ‘ole check of names on that list by the list of registered state lobbyists — just to make sure there are no other conflict-of-interest discrepancies he may have overlooked. If there are any conflicts, Wilson wants to interview them too!So I called the Governor’s Office of Executive Appointments (404-656-1776) yesterday to try to get me that list. A woman named “Celine” (she wouldn’t give her last name) refused to give me the list, saying it wasn’t “released to the public.

UPDATE: Thanks to all who emailed. This matter is now closed. The information is available online. I’m emailing to SpaceyG.

UPDATE:  NO the matter is not closed.  SpaceyG still hasn’t gotten what she is looking for and contrary to all the calls I got, there is no one place on the net for this information.

34 comments

  1. Doug Deal says:

    You would think that idiots in Government would realize that the quickest way to make something a big deal is to claim it is secret.

    Now, people start to wonder why it has to be secret, and it snowballs. A second ago, I did not care, now I am curious. Thanks Celine!

  2. pachedhouse says:

    Doug,

    Just because someone who answers the phone tells an overinflated ego that something is not available does not mean that said person is an idiot.

    It means she is an intern or a low wage/straight from college worker doing what her bosses tell her to do.

    Why don’t you people get over the “everything now” mentality and file an open records?

    Just because you don’t get to see everything doesn’t make it a conspiracy, and just because it is visible doesn’t make it kosher.

    Could it be the list is not finished… could it be that some of the people on the list have not been contacted/confirmed/criminal histories done?

  3. SpaceyG says:

    List seem well-cooked by the time it got to the Senate Majority leader! My ego, on the other hand, is always an inflation in progress.

  4. PeachRight says:

    I’m with Pached House. How is a roll call vote on a senate confirmation considered a secret? Regardless, this is besides the point. The issue was Sally Bethea and she was removed for good reason:

    Sally Bethea is the Executive Director and chief “Riverkeeper” of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeepers organization. She is the registered lobbyist for that organization and has actively pursued an adversarial role with the state.

    She has used the Riverkeeper newsletter “RiverChat” as a bully pulpit to attack the appropriations committees of both the House and Senate.

    In addition to lobbying for funds in the state budget that serve the interest of her organization, the Riverkeepers Organization has filed multiple lawsuits against municipalities throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Cornelia and Gwinnett County. They have also sued the State Environmental Protection Division which is part of the Department of Natural Resources.

    As a member of the DNR board, she has a direct conflict of interest with her role as lobbyist for the Riverkeeper organization. Case in point: As the Executive Director of Riverkeeper,
    SHE HAS SUED THE DNR WHILE SHE WAS A MEMBER OF ITS BOARD. If that isn’t an indication of a conflict of interest, I’m not sure what is.

  5. SpaceyG says:

    Celine The Intern! Bless her heart. She’s got a great career in politics I must say. Young bulldog & excellent gatekeeper. I’d hire her in a sec.

    Anyways… here’s an UPDATE: The Governor’s Office of Executive Appointments, Celine’s boss in other words, almost immediately contacted me as soon as this post went up. (Thanks Erick!) They are going to fax me the list of names first thing on Monday. I’d get it now from ’em, but I gotta run go be mom for the rest of this lovely day. Enough name calling and blogging! Going to go commence weekend of fun.

    I’ll get back on this list thingee first thing Monday. If anyone else needs The List sooner, then you’ll have to contact the office of Execu- Appointments yourself.

    Cheers,
    Me and My Ego

  6. GOPGrassroots says:

    Celine is an intern just out of high school. I’m sure that standard Capitol operating procedure does not authorize interns to speak to the media, nor to give out lists to any one who calls in asking for them.

    SpaceyG should do a little research and figure out who she should make information requests to and then say “please”. Instead she calls the main line at the Capitol, demands a list from the intern who simply answers the phones, and when she doesn’t get her way fires out an indignant blog posting claiming foul play.

    Grow up.

  7. kingmaker says:

    Here is a list of all the executive appointments, right on the web.

    http://www.gov.state.ga.us/exe_appts_list.shtml#arts

    Man, Google is a wonderful thing. Some of you folks should try it every once in a while. Now you will have to actually click on the tab for each of the 70 or so boards, authorities, commissions, etc. and dig through each website to see who sits on the respective boards. Let us know what you find out.

  8. SpaceyG says:

    GOPGrass: Oh Puuuuhhhleeeze!!!!!!!! Whatever gets the job done quickest, I’m all for! Seems like PP is quicker than Google.

    And my momma raised me right; I AWAYS mind my manners. So piss off. And get busy checking that list against a list of registered lobbyists, k?

  9. SpaceyG says:

    Kingmaker… I’m so stupid! I never thought to look at a website for names! Silly girl that I am. If you click through that site, please write down all the appointments and send ’em to me. I’m at:
    spaceygracey at bellsouth dot net.

  10. Someone set me straight here. Gale Norton worked for a company that represented the “National Lead Company” (now NL Industries) prior to being appointed Interior Secretary.

    I presume that Norton’s former employer filed (and continues to file) numerous suits against Interior and against the mission of the department.

    Norton is no longer Interior secretary, and I presume she was no longer employed by the National Lead Company while she was interior secretary, but she wasn’t far removed.

    Sally Bethea’s conflict of interest is that her outside group has what should be the same mission as the DNR and when the DNR drags its feet the outside group sues them. While there may technically be a conflict of interest there, what is (ultimately) the difference between that and Steve Davis going on his blog and trashing the decisions of the Legislature, a body that he is a member of?

    If Bethea is replaced by another member who shares more or less the same ideology but is free of conflict, I don’t think anyone will bat an eye. My guess is that’s not going to happen and the lobbyist thing is being used as political cover.

  11. Additionally, while the website is helpful if you need to look up one or two names, without a spreadsheet with all appointments it would be impossible to complete this research task in a reasonable amount of time and possibly not at all.

    Presumably that spreadsheet exists or is easily compiled by someone in government. That’s the point of open government, not just that you can get the information if you really try, but that you can obtain the information and actually do something useful with it to audit your own government.

  12. Doug Deal says:

    Chirs,

    I agree with you. Open government, has to be the default. It should not require an official act to get information out of these flunkies they be Republican or Democrat.

    If she was uncertain, she can call someone over that can make the decision. These politician work for us, as do their staff, maybe they should act like it on occassion.

  13. GOPGrassroots says:

    Your version of “Whatever gets the job done quickest” is calling up a teenage intern, demanding information and then lambasting her on your little blog when you don’t get your way. That’s not Citizen Journalism, that’s Childish Journalism.

    “And my momma raised me right; I AWAYS mind my manners. So piss off. ” Interesting family values ya got their .

  14. jsm says:

    Grass,

    I think the point being made is that whichever “teenage intern” is taking phone calls should be capable of handling the requests of those who call and should know the rules involving public information. The entire system at the Gold Dome is being lambasted, not just the intern. She can’t help if she has not been properly or correctly trained.

  15. SpaceyG says:

    Trained. Key word. And I’ll be more than happy to fax the entire free world my resume, should you need to see those gen-u-ine journalism street creds. But they too are available online. I think I’ll add some voodoo hexes to it while I’m at it….

    BTW… if anyone can put a hex on this linkee here:
    http://www.gov.state.ga.us/exe_appts_list.shtml#arts

    and have that list of appointees suddenly appear online, then have at it. Anyone from NOLA maybe? You folks were always a lot better at voodoo than us South Carolinians.

  16. pachedhouse says:

    jsm,

    We still have only heard one side of the story… we are only getting “A woman named ‘Celine’ (she wouldn’t give her last name) refused to give me the list, saying it wasn’t ‘released to the public.'”.

    Did Celine ask for a name and number so that she could get someone to call Spacey? Did Spacey ask to speak to Celine’s boss or did she simply cave into a teenager telling her “no”? Without these questions answered, the question of impropriety is still just hanging on a sentence in a blog.

    “She can’t help if she has not been properly or correctly trained”… Again, without the questions above being answered, we have no idea if she was trained “properly or correctly” or if the policy of the Office is just flawed.

  17. stephaniemills21 says:

    To all defending and detracting “Celine”:

    Both SpaceyG and Celine have not done their jobs correctly.

    Celine did not do her job by saying that the list was not public and not finding out first. Though, i have to tell you from numerous open records requestst that I have filed (under both democratic and republican control) that this answer is common. People tend to get really controlling when they get into certain positions. I do not know if it comes from some sort of feeling of ownership or what, but is very common. In these cases, it is always best to remind said person of the open records statute and then they seem to reconsider their first answer.

    SpaceyG did not do her job in that all requests for information (ie public records stuff) must be made in writing. This was changed by Sonny and the Legislature I believe in ’05. Prior to that you could just ask for information in person or phone, but that is no longer the case. (Ah, Sonny’s idea of open government.)

    Also, would like to point out, that according to the statute the information on the web is in accordance with the law. The information is public, AND you can use it electronically. Is it the easiest and most efficient way? No. But it is legal. Now, if you really want to get a list in excel or something of the sort, then what you need to ask for is exactly that. I am sure the Gov’s office keeps that list in that form, and only have to provide it for you in that form if you ask directly for it.

    And for all of you who have an issue with the way Spacey went about getting the info, give me a break. She did what any NORMAL citizen who has a question would do. She did not call the main switchboard at the capitol, she called the office that handles EXECUTIVE APPOINTMENTS. No where does Spacey say she demanded the info, I am sure she asked nicely, but so what if she did. She knew the information was supposed to be public and was being told it was not. If it had been me, I would have then demanded the information. The point is that we, as citizens of this state, should not have to jump through some arbitrary hoops to get answers to our questions or requests for information.

  18. SpaceyG says:

    Since when do bloggers have job descriptions!!??? Now that just cracked me up!

    Celine The Intern told me, in very blunt, specific terms, that her office of EXECUTIVE APPOINTMENTS wasn’t going to give me a list, that I had to call the Senate Majority Leader for that list. So I called them, and they told me to call the Lt. Governor’s office. At no point did anyone direct me to any website, although I’d visited the site before and not been satisfied with what I didn’t find there. Pardon me for behaving like a citizen of a democracy and, wooooo, asking a government office for information.

    What do ya’ need… a permit to make phone calls to government offices nowadays??

    At some point, you just gotta shut-up and blog.

  19. Nimrod says:

    The reason given for her nonconfirmation was that she was a registered lobbyist.

    What about these Board members:

    Jim Walters was down at the Capitol this year lobbying for his legislation that would benefit his enterprise.

    What about Bill Archer, who is a “consultant” for GA Power after retiring from GA Power?

    Not to mention, a majority of the Board are businessman whose business interests are regulated by the DNR.

    Bottom line is the claims being used against Ms. Bethea are not being applied universal. The Governor personally removed two of his previous appointments because they were perceievd as “too sensitive” to real natural resouces issue (i.e. they have a consciencous): Sarah Clark & Ralph Callaway; and used a technicality as the reason. He couldn’t do this one. Thus, supposedly Sen. Tommy WIlliams was notified and performed the action by striking Ms. Bethea’s name (no committee vote) so that when the Senate voted on it her name was not included.

    Ms. Bethea was struck becuase she played by the rules whereas the other lobbying Board members are doing so as unregistered lobbyist.

    Of course, why would expect or demand anything less!

  20. SpaceyG says:

    Why does Governor Perdue hate our God-given natural resources so? How will we continue to hunt and fish, swim and boat, and enjoy our state’s bounty of natural wonders when they’re not protected from greed and growth? I just will never understand what goes through a politician’s mind when they make these kinds of decisions… sigh…

  21. Jason O says:

    I know for a fact that they have the complete list in spreadsheet form at the capitol. You should try Senate Press or the Secretary of the Senate.

  22. Demonbeck says:

    Geez, we are an impatient lot aren’t we?

    The mission of the DNR and the Riverkeeper are not the same. The DNR manages the state’s natural resources while the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper lobbies on behalf of a group of folks with special interests in a certain area of the state. What they seek is not often congruent with the best interests of the entire community they represent.

    Being on the board of one and the ED of the other is the very definition of conflict of interest.

    Plus, it’s Perdue’s prerogative to appoint whoever the hell he wants to the boards of this state. If Bethea has a problem with it, then she should run for Governor and appoint whoever she wants.

  23. griftdrift says:

    “while the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper lobbies on behalf of a group of folks with special interests in a certain area of the state”

    Yes, that would those in the Atlanta metro area that enjoy clean drinking water.

    Also, Demonbeck, Governor Perdue DID appoint Bethea. It was Senator Williams who struck her name and the Senate that confirmed that strike ina pro forma vote.

  24. Demonbeck says:

    griftdrift,

    The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper does not have sole claim to those in the Atlanta metro area that enjoy clean drinking water.

    Your statement, however, goes much further than I could alone in proving my point that Sally Bethea’s conflict of interest is real and her denial is justified.

  25. griftdrift says:

    Then Demonbeck, I suppose the question has to be posed. Why now? She’s been there for eight years.

    Why now? Kinda like those pesky U.S. Attorneys…

  26. Demonbeck says:

    You should ask the leaders of the Senate from eight years ago why not. I have to assume the Gov re-appointed her recently and she was shot down by the Senate in this new majority’s first opportunity – because of the conflict of interest.

  27. griftdrift says:

    And I have to assume given Senator Williams ongoing conflict with the Altamaha Riverkeepers that its pretty purely politics.

    Then again, I don’t know how many times she has been approved previously. Is it a yearly thing? Or are there terms? I suppose I will have to do some research.

  28. SpaceyG says:

    Let’s define conflict of interest: “Conflict of Interest: A term used to describe the situation in which a public official who, contrary to the obligation and absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public, exploits the relationship for personal benefit, typically pecuniary.”

    OK… so we got that down. Now who else currently on the NDR board, the developers, the builders, the dentists (yes, dentists!) might also now have a “conflict of interest” with what the mission of the Dept. of Natural Resources is all about? Last time I checked, protecting “natural” resources had little to do with building stuff or drilling on teeth.

    Here’s the list of current DNR Board members if anyone else wants to call ’em and ask exactly what their interests really ARE:

    http://www.gadnr.org/pdf/bdlist.pdf

    And more info about the backgrounds of the current DNR board members is here:

    http://spaceygreview.blogspot.com/2007/04/nothing-natural-on-dnr-board.html

    Brush 2X daily, and don’t forget to floss!

  29. Demonbeck says:

    Correct or not, I only ask that we give our elected officials the benefit of the doubt that they actually know what they are doing before they make a decision – especially when we are talking about a seasoned vet like Tommie Williams.

    There may be some partisan politics behind the decision, but no one is arguing that Ms. Bethea’s role is in fact a conflict of interest. They are asking why she wasn’t removed sooner.

    Rather than taking the jilted lover’s side of the story as unbiased truth – we would all be far better served to hear the other side of the story or delve a little deeper before passing judgement.

  30. SpaceyG says:

    UPDATE: The Governor’s Office of Executive Appointments just faxed me the list of appointments for confirmation. Sally’s name was on the list Governor Perdue signed and sent to the Senate. It was Williams who had it removed.

    The question though really is: if Sally Bethea was removed due to legal conflicts, so be it. But what about the other DNR Board members? Do they too have pure interests in sitting on the DNR board? Why are they there, and how are they upholding the mission of the DNR?

    Again, let’s look at the whole enchilda of appointments to the DNR Board:
    http://www.gadnr.org/pdf/bdlist.pdf

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