Is City Hall bugged? Some think so

Feb. 07, 2013 @ 07:30 PM

According to the report, many staff members worry there are bugs in city hall that an exterminator cannot remove. 

So much so, that one of the official recommendations is to sweep city hall. 

"The Council should retain an outside firm to conduct a sweep of City Hall for bugs or other surveillance or electronic devices," the report reads. "While it is doubtful that any such devices exist in City Hall, there is a clear and present perception among staff that the facility is not secure and possibly bugged. Many employees in the City have resorted to the use of their personal cell phones and often leave the premises to discuss sensitive matters. A sweep of City facilities would help restore confidence in the security and privacy of the City buildings." 

The findings of fact revealed that "based on credible and objective evidence, Police Chief Debra Duncan secretly tape recorded former City Manager Wayne Herron."

The facts go on to state that the police department standard operating policies and procedures prohibit members of the department from recording another member of the police department without their knowledge, though it does not appear the policy was violated by Duncan, the report stated. 

However, the report noted that the policies and procedures prohibit "unbecoming conduct" and that employees cannot conduct themselves in a manner that would be detrimental to the department's image.

State law allows conversations to be recorded if one party is aware the conversation is being recorded.

The report's conclusions of law further address the issue. 

"The secret recording of City Manager Herron by (redacted) was shared with Council member Dottie Nash and Mayor Bobby Kilgore," the report read. "Subsequently, Dottie Nash and Mayor Bobby Kilgore shared the contents of the Police Chief's tape recording with Council member Lynn Keziah." 

The conclusions go on to say that while the recording did not violate police department's prohibition of taping officers, it "may bring the Police Department in disrepute or ridicule and may impair the performance of official duties and obligations of employees of the City."

Many of the interviews mention an incident when Council member Dottie Nash recorded a conversation with former City Manager Wayne Herron without his knowledge. While the action did not break the law, it created some outrage among other council members. 

"(Interviewee 12) stated his belief that the taping incident has impacted staff morale and created a lack of trust among staff," the report reads. "He stated that the taping incident has become a running joke within the City." 

In order to protect anonymity, the interviews use the masculine pronoun regardless of the gender of the person being interviewed. 

Interviewee 19 said the trust level in the city is "very low, if not negative" and told the Parker, Poe, Adams & Bernstein team that people worried the interview room was bugged. 

"He also stated that the staff were in a 'state of paranoia' and not simply because of the taping of former City Manager Wayne Herron," the report reads. 

Last summer, Nash released a CD and a transcript of a conversation that she recorded of Herron in order to show people that he was "telling tales." 

A statement from Nash gives her account of Duncan's recording. 

She wrote in her statement that Duncan was concerned about Herron and told Kilgore. Kilgore and Nash went to Council member Lynn Keziah who said they needed proof. 

"The Mayor called the Chief and told her what Keziah had said and that she needed to get proof," Nash wrote in her statement. "As a police officer when you give a statement it is recorded, so that is what she did. The Mayor and I took the tape to Keziah's office where we all listened. Keziah wanted to confront Herron but we could not put the Chief in that position so it was decided that I would record Herron. We all gave our word that the Chief's part would not be told as to protect her. The Mayor and I kept our word." 

Duncan released a statement Wednesday afternoon in reference to the report. 

"My reputation has been built on honesty and my employees are aware of the consequences of being untruthful. I hold myself to that same standard," Duncan wrote. "I cooperated with this study and told the truth when asked. I did nothing illegal, unethical, or against policy. My actions were undertaken with the knowledge of the majority of city council members. I have no further comment on this issue."