Fitzgerald released e-mails contrary to his county’s directives, filing says
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‘We did the right thing’
During an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications, Story County’s Holmes declined to talk about the case other than to express support for the Story County board of supervisor’s decision to release the Fitzgerald e-mails.
“I think our board of supervisors did the right thing, according to Iowa law,” Holmes said. “They accepted my advice, and I think they acted appropriately under the circumstances.”
In its motion to dismiss the federal attempt to block public release of the Fitzgerald e-mails, Story County expressed its belief that the federal position for not releasing the e-mails is wrong on several grounds, beginning with the question of whether the e-mails belong to Story County or the federal government.
“Story County, Iowa, cannot understand how Plaintiff [federal government] can claim ownership of records when they are not sure what the records are nor do they have possession of them,” the Story County filing states. “And, until disclosure by Sheriff Fitzgerald, the United States of America could not argue the informational value of Sheriff Fitzgerald’s e-mails as a federal record.”
As for the federal government’s argument that FirstNet is not subject to disclosure laws, Story County also believes that claim is incorrect. Such an interpretation “is inconsistent with the entirety of the First Responder Network Authority statute, which requires: ‘issuing open, transparent and competitive requests for proposals to private-sector entities for the purposes of building, operating and maintaining the network,’” according to the Story County filing.
“How can the First Responder Network Authority statute require open and transparent requests for proposals on one hand but then prohibit any and all dissemination pursuant to a FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request of all documents dealing with FirstNet on the other?” the Story County filing further states. “This interpretation and overbroad application of the United States of America’s argument that all documents surrounding FirstNet are exempt from FOIA is overbroad as applied and, therefore, unconstitutional.”
In addition, the federal government has failed to demonstrate that releasing the records “would lead to irreparable harm” and is “overreaching and usurping the sovereignty of the state of Iowa and its governmental subdivisions” by attempting to block the release of the Fitzgerald e-mails, according to Story County.
“All of the claims in the United States of America’s complaint are mere unsubstantiated assertions, and the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief should be dismissed,” the Story County filing states.
The case is the latest episode in the controversial tenure of Fitzgerald on the FirstNet board. Since Fitzgerald made his allegations in April, a special review committee of FirstNet board members—supported by DOC attorneys—investigated the openness and transparency claims and found no evidence supporting Fitzgerald’s allegations.
The special review committee also was going to investigate the second phase of Fitzgerald’s claims, that some FirstNet board members had conflicts of interest and that early FirstNet procurements were not handled properly. But FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn announced during last week’s FirstNet board meeting that he has asked the DOC Inspector General to conduct this portion of the investigation.
Politico’sRomm this year has written multiple stories citing sources claiming that Motorola Solutions has lobbied, supplied information and written letters to express opposition with the manner in which FirstNet conducted its business during the first several months of the organization’s existence.
Romm’s final request to Story County on Aug. 1 was to receive all “e-mails the sheriff [Fitzgerald] sent and received between March 1 and June 30 on any matters surrounding his involvement with FirstNet, his conversations with wireless companies or device makers or to the topic of wireless communications generally.”
When contacted for comment by IWCE’s Urgent Communications, Fitzgerald declined to speak on the matter, referring all questions to NTIA spokesperson Heather Phillips. Phillips also declined to comment, noting that FirstNet does not comment on pending litigation.