The city of Grand Junction is sticking to its story that an email left out of a recent open records request was an accident, despite long odds that that's actually the case.
Councilor Phyllis Norris failed to turn over an email that detailed her response to a resident who was pushing for council to read a wide-ranging proclamation of inclusivity.
That email to resident Keira Havens reads in part, "I as a white woman do not believe the very people you claim to be discriminated against have a right to discriminate against me and to do their best to bully me because I am of the opinion that all people deserve to be respected."
The email was not included in a more than 500-page response to a Daily Sentinel request for open records related to the inclusivity proclamation.
It was later provided after the Sentinel asked about its existence, with Norris apologizing for "overlooking" the email.
On Wednesday night, Norris and city officials continued to maintain the position that the only communication excluded from the voluminous request happens to be the one that could be perceived as unflattering to Norris.
"We do try and be up front and honest, and I think people see us that way," Norris said Wednesday. "Do we make mistakes sometimes? We all do."
"(To say that) us or some of us were intentionally withholding information or not diligently working to share that is way off base," Councilor Chris Kennedy said.
City Attorney John Shaver referenced the large volume of emails contained in the request when he commended city staff for "produc(ing) 504 pages within 48 hours of the request."
"Each of those was individually culled, and there was one page that was overlooked," he said.
"There is nothing willful, nothing wanton, and nothing that would suggest any impropriety," Shaver said, about the Norris situation.
The email Shaver referenced, though, turned out to be relevant, rather than innocuous.
In light of the flap, the city has decided to change the way they process open records requests that involve email messages. Rather than rely on councilors themselves to search their devices and turn over relevant emails — the process that has been in place for years, and is most often used to fulfill requests — city staff now will access a centralized database of information and use software to cull results.
"This (incident) I believe brought to light a potential flaw in the process," City Manager Greg Caton said.
"This reduces the likelihood of human error, quite frankly," he said.
Caton, though, said there were "consequences" to changing the city's process.
Centralized searches are expected to produce larger returns of files and necessitate more communication with requesters, and will require "a fair amount of staff time," Caton said, alluding to additional costs that may be charged to fulfill requests.