Freedom of Information Request For Communications Regarding Scuttled Katsina Sister City Visit

March 21, 2014 | In response to a Freedom on Information Act Request, the City of Elk Grove has released copies of communications...

March 21, 2014 |

In response to a Freedom on Information Act Request, the City of Elk Grove has released copies of communications between members of the ad hoc Elk Grove Sister City Committee (SCC) and the city's coordinator of the proposed visit, Angela Frost. 

On February 26, the SCC sought the Elk Grove City Council's approval for a sister city relationship with the state and city of Katsina, Nigeria, as well as funding to host His Royal Highness, the Emir of Katsina.  

Among notable findings in the first category of requested communiques (see link for all documents below) include the following:
  • On the first page, Frost placed a request with the city clerk's office to have a presentation for the Katsina sister city visit and relationship placed on the February 26 city council meeting agenda.
  • In an email on page 179, Frost tells Ononiwu and Sorci that the presentation has been added to the city council meeting agenda.
  • An email from Assistant City Manger Rebecca
    Craig to Frost dated February 27 on page 222, says "Laura's [Gill] impression is that you received no spending authority from the city council last night. She's willing to match whatever monies you raise. This definitely needs to be budgeted/granted for next year."
  • An email on page 169 from Ononiwu to Sorci on the afternoon of February 26, Ononiwu writes "I have spoken to Sacramento Association of Nigerians here but they do not have the funding to help as they are not involved with the Sister City relationship." 
  • Listed on the last page, 246, one day after the February 26 presentation to the SCC, Frost emails SCC members Ty Sorci and Davies Ononiwu inquiring "Also let's discuss the role women play in Katsina and how they are regarded. That will be important for this trip."
  • On the afternoon of Friday, February 28, Frost sent an email,  listed on page 164, to city public information officer Christine Brainerd and police public information officer Christopher Trim inquiring if a special meeting of the city's multicultural committee could be scheduled in hopes of having that group appropriate up to $8,000 to cover the expenses of the Emir visit to Elk Grove. In her situation analysis to Brainerd and Trim, Frost writes "the cost of hosting the Emir of Katsina is bigger than anticipated and the SCC is reaching out to all local groups and community service organizations for assistance." Frost also notes that "the SCC is requesting financial assistance from the multicultural committee in the amount of $8,000 toward this week-long visit..." The visit was scheduled to commence on March 20.
  • On page 237, an email dated March 1, City Manager Laura Gill asks Frost to have Sorci and Ononiwu to cancel the trip saying the February 26 presentation has put the "the City Council and me in a very awkward position and it will only get worse as long as we remain silent on the issue."
Links to all the information released by the city can be found here.

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SteveB6509 said...

While this was an awkward situation, it does appear that Laura Gill recognized the problems this was causing and asked for the trip to be cancelled.

One correction to the story: please note that the Assistant City Manager is Rebecca Craig (I was starting to wonder why the City Manager and Assistant City Manager had the same family name!).

Let's worry about stuff that actually matters said...

Why does this even matter anymore? It's over and Council has decided to change their tactics regarding Sister Cities. Get over it already.

Daniel Ellsberg said...

It is a cautionary tale of how our government functions, or in this case, malfunctions.

With the city's various proposals to build a $100 million soccer stadium or $15 million aquatics centers, city leaders need to know that they are ultimately accountable to us taxpayers. We Americans are besieged not only by big data-gathering by the likes of the NSA, but there is constantly legislation introduced by politicians of all stripes to put a veil over their actions.

So yes, when our city leaders propose major project that can affect our city's financial well- being, this process actually matters. The government needs to know they are being watched to the extent that they can be monitored.

Lynn said...

Why does this matter? It is more than a "sister city" issue. Get over it already? Really? Should the taxpaying residents get over this so easily? Look this speaks directly to how decisions are made in our city. This issue was only dropped because of the resident outcry. I was at the city council meeting when this was presented. The perception I had of this particular situation; this was the first time our council members had heard of this proposed sister city. They jumped on board supporting it.....until....and back pedaled after resident outcry. When our mayor said " let me know what I could do to help"; he already had helped by sending a letter. Maybe I don't have it right but wasn't this in the works a year ago? This matters and should not so quickly be forgotten because our leaders are not as transparent as they tout. It matters because our tax dollars are continuing to be spent. How about the purchase of property in the SEPA area by our city? How about the selling of the mitigation property? How about? The city only changed tactics AFTER residents cried out. Why does this still matter? It speaks to the importance of residents watching, not giving up on participating in the process even when we residents have had so many defeats! Why does it matter? It matters because it demonstrates that we all can make a difference, but it takes a WE. This may of begun by one person, Mike, speaking up...but look how it grew. Mike thank you. Residents who spoke up thank you. EGN thank you for getting past fluff and writing about the other side of the story! It matters!

Anonymous said...

How true! In reading the discloures there were all kinds of red flags in why this could be problematic and not one person picked up on them. It seems the city has just become a "rubber stamp" city. There were no funds even available 2-3 weeks before his visit and they were going to have to go begging. As a resident I'm being asked to support someone who lives in luxury while his people live in poverty and as a female probably could not be in his presence. I do not support a city where I have to bow at their feet and they would consider it an insult to stay at my home.

I also wonder why the SSC did not see this perhaps as a problem and do some outreach in the community for a little feedback. Have only heard of two names mentioned as being on the SSC...are there more and who are they?

Connie said...

This issue is atypical of our local government of late in that city hall seems to forget that the process is the most important. History will tell us that it has been active citizens who have brought these matters to light and that includes this current issue. Not following an open governmental process leads to corruption.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. How about the word of ICMA (International City/County Management Association) which is the guiding light for city managers. Elk Grove used to be a member, but currently don’t know if they are.

Here’s why this issue, and others, are so important: “Transparent governance means that government officials act openly, with citizens’ knowledge of the decisions the officials are making. Availability of information on government policies and actions, a clear sense of organizational responsibility, and an assurance that governments are efficiently administered and free of systemic corruption are important components of transparent governance.

Transparency is a fundamental element of abolishing corruption. Transparent governance is important to local governments and the communities they serve because corruption threatens good governance, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms public and private sector development, and distorts public policy. Controlling corruption is possible only when government, citizens, and the private sector cooperate to ensure transparency.” [End of copy}

Our public policy can no longer be distorted. Let the sun shine in!

Anonymous said...

Destination City?

Yeah for King Joffey Joffer, his royal highness of the Kingdom of Zamunda.

Take him to the Beer Cave, all the fast food joints, 1/2 vacant strip malls, the crown jewel the Prominade mall, the smoke shops, gun stores, shooting range, stop and robs, nail salons, etc.

Liar Liar said...

Interesting that the majority of the Elk Grove City Council said they knew nothing about Katsina becoming a sister city until the presentation.

Well, I guess they have amnesia, because there is an email buried in the documents that they were all notified as far back as early January, including asking for their availability to be at planned functions!

So do we have liars among us! Imagine that? The Elk Grove City Council lying to their constituents!

Connie said...

Just a quick note: Elk Grove City Manager Laura Gill is a member of ICMA. However, she has not adopted ICMA's Code of Ethics via a City Resolution which ICMA encourages all of their members to do.

Lynn said...

Page from the Citizen Survey results. This is on the consent agenda. Looks like the majority are happy with all. Hmmm...I will look further into the report for more information.
I recently ran into someone who use to live in Elk Grove who agreed the schools were good and it was a great place to raise kids. They moved after the kids graduated and now live elsewhere in the region.

As a result of The NCS, a series of next steps will be conducted, which
• Survey results will be considered during the development of the
Fiscal Year (FY) 2014-15 Budget
• The FY 2014-15 Budget and department work plans will identify
specific measures that staff will report on throughout the budget year
• Survey results will be incorporated in the City’s ICMA performance
• Survey will continue to be conducted on a semi-annual basis so the
City is able to measure short term and long term progress
The survey contains valuable results, including the following highlights:
• Quality of Life in Elk Grove – Results showed that the majority of
residents (81%) rated the quality of life in Elk Grove as excellent or
good. In addition, 86% rate Elk Grove as a great place to raise a
family, and 88% would recommend living in Elk Grove.
• Public Safety – Public safety is the community facet most important to
residents’ overall quality of life, and Elk Grove performed solidly
within this category. At least four in five respondents felt safe in the
different areas in Elk Grove and safety services, including police,
crime prevention and emergency preparedness, were rated positively
by about three in five respondents. In addition, 93% of respondents
feel safe in their neighborhood.
• Continue efforts to keep Elk Grove aesthetically attractive - Results
showed that overall residents felt that Elk Grove is a well maintained,
clean community, with a good overall appearance, and 80% of
respondents rated Elk Grove as clean.
• Old Town Elk Grove – Respondents were given a list of potential new
development options for Old Town Elk Grove. About two in five
respondents would like to see an outdoor concert/special event
venue, activities or destinations for children or families, causal and
fine dining and a seasonal ice rink. About one-quarter of respondents
would like to see a museum, a community park and history
center/display. Few respondents would like to see office space.

Knowledge is Power said...

We are the Few, the Proud, the "Crazies" and the "Monday Morning Quarterbacks". We may not shake the apathy in this town, may not influence elections, but we are not sheep either! We will not be led by the leaderless.

Anonymous said...

" It seems the city has just become a "rubber stamp" city.

That is why Elk Grove is just a big sprawling mess with no character.

The first set of city council members didn't see a subdivision developer that they didn't like.

Plow all the fields under and throw up miles and miles of bland tan and beige houses.

Anonymous said...

@Lynn -

What survey(s) are you referencing? How were they given to the public and were any people left out? What were the number of respondents and were the demographics representative? Was the sample size valid?

I have never seen a survey, and I can't help but wonder if the survey may be somewhat skewed….

Lynn, pologies if I asked questions you don't have the information for.

I have seen the City take surveys before (like for bus service) and word the questions and select the answers to get the results they wanted :(

Lynn said...

Here is the link for the Citzen Survey. It is a random survey. I believe last year it was opened to residents to complete online, however the online results were not considered in the final statistics.
I think this is a survey used by many cities so the questions are not constructed by our city leaders.
This document is 135 pages.

SteveB6509 said...

Thank you all for reading everything in greater detail.

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