Emails and B.S.

We get the runaround—and impossible answers—from the UA regarding a TUSD-related records request

Nearly six months after filing a public-records request for emails to and from Tucson Unified School Board president Mark Stegeman, the Tucson Weekly has received only a fraction of what was requested.

On Aug. 10, 2011, the Weekly sent a records request to the University of Arizona asking for TUSD-related emails sent to and from Stegeman's UA email address. The request asked for e-mail messages to and from Stegeman between his fellow school-board members and Superintendent John Pedicone, among others, going back to Stegeman's election in 2008. Topics for the search also included Mexican-American studies and ethnic studies.

Jennifer Fitzenberger, the UA director of external communications, confirmed the request and later confirmed the presence of the emails on the UA server. On Nov. 15, Fitzenberger wrote in an email to the Weekly that the legal department decided the records request needed to be made through TUSD, even though the emails are on the UA server.

"The records you requested reflect the official activities of the TUSD board, and as such, TUSD should review and respond to the request. Please ask TUSD to request the documents from the UA (they can contact Teri Moore). From there, TUSD can respond to your request," Fitzenberger wrote.

Nancy Woll of TUSD's legal department asked the Weekly to send a records request to TUSD, and the Weekly complied on Nov. 22. Woll then confirmed that the district was in contact with the UA and would review the request.

TUSD's public-records clerk, Imelda Cardenas, forwarded a letter to the Weekly that was sent to Stegeman on Nov. 28 from TUSD legal counsel Martha Durkin. A copy went to Teri Moore, identified in the letter as a UA public-info records officer. Stegeman was provided a copy of the public-records request with the letter, and was told that, according to state law, the records requested were considered public and "are therefore subject to disclosure."

"Please make these records available to us as soon as possible in order for TUSD to comply with this request in the required timely manner," Durkin wrote. "It is my understanding that the records requested are available to you through Teri Moore at the University of Arizona."

The Weekly later emailed Stegeman, asking what he was doing about the TUSD request. On Monday, Dec. 12, Stegeman responded by email: "Mari, I just found out a few days ago that you had never received a response to the public records request concerning email. I had assumed that you had received that a long time ago. As soon as finals finish I will try to ensure that you get it ASAP."

After not hearing back from Stegeman, the Weekly contacted the UA's Fitzenberger on Jan. 3 for an update—and was reminded that TUSD was in charge of the request. "TUSD will be processing your request, as the records you requested have been determined to be TUSD records. TUSD is in touch with Dr. Stegeman," she wrote.

After a follow-up with TUSD, the school district's Cardenas replied to the Weekly in an email on Jan. 5: "It is my understanding that the documents will be sent directly to Mr. Stegeman, who in turn will make them available to you. Since the UofA is the owner of said documents, (the) TUSD public records department will not view them."

On Jan. 5, the Weekly wrote Stegeman asking about the request, along with this question: "Who will do a final review of this request?"

On Jan. 6, Cardenas called the Weekly and said that the records were at her office and would be ready as soon as personal contact information was redacted. Later that same day, Stegeman wrote: "UA pulled the stuff together and Martha Durkin has it, and I think you should get it almost immediately from this point."

The emails provided to the Weekly included emails from May, June, July and August of 2011—many of which are duplicates of governing-board communications, with attachments.

On Monday, Jan. 9, the Weekly contacted Stegeman to let him know that only records from part of 2011 were provided. When asked to explain, Stegeman replied: "UA compiled the emails from their system. I can ask them if you want. Was it the late part of 2011 or the early part?"

The Weekly replied that the request sought records going back three years, and asked him to complete the request as soon as possible. On Friday, Jan. 13, Stegeman replied, "I will convey this to UA legal. I try to keep TUSD business off of UA email as much as possible, since that is not what UA email is intended for."

Starting last year, the TUSD website included a contact email under the photograph of each school-board member. The first email address Stegeman listed was his UA address. The email was changed halfway through the year to a Gmail address. In 2009, Stegeman also used the UA email address at the end of a guest editorial that ran in the morning daily.

In a follow-up, the Weekly contacted Stegeman, as well as the UA's Fitzenberger and TUSD's Cardenas. Fitzenberger asked for a copy of the UA public-records request. The Weekly sent Fitzenberger an email with the original request and attached a copy of the letter that TUSD sent to Stegeman in November.

The letter states: "Pursuant to the state open records law, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. Secs. 39-121 to 39-122, I write to request access to and a copy of all e-mail correspondence the past three years to and from Associate Professor of Economics Mark Stegeman using his UA e-mail address on topics regarding Tucson Unified School District in his capacity as a member of and now president of the Tucson Unified School District governing board."

The Weekly also asked the UA and TUSD legal departments to explain why Stegeman himself, sans oversight, was directed to pick up the emails from the UA's legal department and deliver them to TUSD. While the Weekly is still waiting for a reply from TUSD, Stegeman emailed that he provided everything he received. "I did not remove anything myself. I don't know whether Martha removed or redacted anything. I never saw her output."

Fitzenberger confirmed how the emails were provided to Stegeman by the UA legal department. "Stegeman was provided a CD with the records responsive to your request. He was then to give the CD to TUSD for review. ... We can confirm that the (searches) conducted were for responsive records covered the three-year span you requested."

The UA is implying there were no emails found to or from Stegeman's UA account regarding the TUSD business in question before May 2011—which seems impossible.

Fitzenberger wrote, "I can confirm the only emails responsive to your request were those provided on the disc to TUSD. There were no records matching your request in 2009 or 2010."

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