King maneuvers to find authorship of Council emails

Filed under: Government,Hazlehurst |

It’s always fun when the buzzing of media mosquitos so annoys the powerful that they react inappropriately – especially when you, as the mosquito in question, manage to avoid getting slapped. But it’s not so much fun when the official’s action may not be merely inappropriate, but possibly unethical.

Last weekend I got wind of Council President Keith King’s “Marketing Plan” for the Colorado Springs City Council, which had been sent out to the other eight members of Council as well as to legislative staff. I managed to persuade one (or maybe more than one!) of the recipients to share it with me.

It was a juicy document – so unlikely in form and content that it might have been a Saturday Night Live parody. A marketing plan? For City Council? You can’t be serious. Candidates market themselves, political parties market themselves, but nonpartisan local elected bodies are there to govern and serve the greater good. Marketing is for Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser and the NFL – not for City Council.

So I posted it Monday and made fun of it and its author. Some readers thought I’d made up the entire thing – one community leader even called to scold me for printing such an unlikely fiction.

But the proposal’s author wasn’t pleased.

King first directed a Council employee to find out when the piece was posted on CSBJ’s site. I was suspicious – why was she calling me and asking for the information? It didn’t sound like an innocent inquiry.

It wasn’t. At 7 p.m. Monday, the Business Journal has learned, King contacted a senior city information technology administrator and coerced him into giving King email records from certain councilors and city employees in an effort to determine who had leaked the document. King zeroed in on a certain councilmember, and confronted that person Tuesday morning.

I don’t know what transpired between them, but I believe that the whole episode deserves serious scrutiny. Here are some questions.

  • Does King, in his capacity as Council president, have the right to access City Council and city staff email records and communications without notice, and without the consent of either party to the communication?
  • Has the city attorney approved this and similar actions?
  • Is this the first time that King has employed similar means to seek information?
  • Do other councilmembers have the same right to snoop on each other’s emails without notice?
  • Are other forms of information-gathering available to King, including cellphone records and even transcriptions of calls made on city phones?
  • Were King’s actions, as he claims, perfectly legal and ethical?

I asked King just prior to Council’s 11:30 a.m. lunch/work session Tuesday morning about his actions. He brushed me off.

“Those are public documents,” he said. “I’ll talk to you later if you want.”

That’s not good enough. On a higher level, the National Security Agency is very good at spying and covering its tracks, but the NSA got caught. King didn’t even try to cover his tracks, so what did he expect?

His suggested Council motto – “Council’s your Neighbor” – rings a little hollow now. Why not a Council song?

“Every breath you take/Every move you make/Every step you take/We’ll be watching you.”


2 Responses to King maneuvers to find authorship of Council emails

  1. Chacon got a spare bedroom in Santa Fe?

    Richard D. Wehner
    December 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

  2. I am done with the “business journal”. With Hazlehurst spinning his anti-business perspective at every turn I find it offensive that you think you represent the business community.

    Linda Sommer
    December 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm