Archive for the ‘Public records requests’ Category

HAVA complaint filed on Iowa Secretary of State

July 20, 2019

When have you ever paid over $200,000 for something and did not know what you were receiving in return? That is the amount Linn County taxpayers have paid to the Iowa Secretary of State for I-Voters Maintenance Fees since 2010. And my office just received a bill for another $29,000 for the current fiscal year.

The reason for this complaint is simple. I and my fellow Iowa county auditors have been told for years that Iowa’s voter registration system, i.e., I-Voters, is secure. Yet, over the years we have received little factual information that allows us to draw the conclusion that I-Voters is secure.

On February 11, 2015, Secretary of State Paul Pate named me to his Auditors’ Advisory Group, a bi-partisan group of county auditors. I said then, “I appreciate Secretary Pate reaching out to me to gather input regarding elections, I look forward to working with him over the next few years to come up with solutions that make sense for Iowa.” The Advisory Group has not been convened by the Secretary in over two years.

Some of my peers have advised me to not talk about our voter registration system, fearing the public will misinterpret the talk. How can I assure the voters of Linn County that I-Voters and their voter registration records are secure when I do not know what is going on with it?

For example, has I-Voters been subjected to a cyber security vulnerability assessment? Or a penetration test? And were the tests performed by third party, ethical hackers who are committed to ensuring the system is secure for the next election? And why did the Secretary’s staff cutoff Linn County’s access to I-Voters after I announced I was going to conduct a vulnerability assessment on the election systems physically residing in Linn County.

I don’t know what I don’t know. And I am not going to be “high” on something that I have been kept “in the dark on”, i.e., I-Voters.

I am doing everything I can to keep the elections systems that I am responsible for secure from bad actors. I am a former IT director and a technology project manager, and the current commissioner of elections, and I need to hear more from the Secretary than the words “trust me”.

Again, the reason for this complaint is simple. I do not know what is going on with I-Voters and I need to know, and I am entitled to know.

Joel D. Miller
Linn County Auditor & Commissioner of Elections

REFERENCES:

Pate names Miller to Auditors’ Advisory Group https://sos.iowa.gov/news/2015_02_11.html

Iowa will keep voter registration system for 2020 elections https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Iowa-will-keep-voter-registration-system-for-2020-14108004.php

HAVA Complaint Letter 7.16.19.pdf
HAVA complaint 7.17.19.pdf
Public Information Request 7.1.19.pdf

Center for Voter Information mailers: Intimidating or helpful?

November 1, 2018

Four Linn County voters have called Elections Services to complain about mail from the Center for Voter Information. They felt intimidated by the mailing. Another voter complained and brought us two mailings she had received from the Center.

We have received complaints on these types of mailers in past elections and the Iowa Attorney General and the US District Attorney reviewed those past mailers. Although neither attorney appreciated the mailers, they determined they were not illegal in that election cycle, i.e., in 2016

The purpose of this post is to inform you that we are aware of the mailers. If you feel intimidated by the mailers, then I suggest you contact the Center for Voter Information and let them know how you feel.

Unfortunately, there is nothing my office can do to stop these mailers from being delivered to your mailbox. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Fake news and a kangaroo court

October 24, 2018

You may wonder why I did not attend today’s Linn County Board of Supervisors meeting.  Here are some of my reasons:

  • I anticipated it was going to be kangaroo court.  And after viewing the video recording of the meeting, there is no doubt it was indeed a kangaroo court. I am thankful I did not attend.  I have no doubt Supervisors Rogers, Walker, and Oleson would have piled on more fake news if I had been present.
  • I provided an update to the Board last week; however, only Supervisors Houser, Harris, and Rogers bothered to show up for that meeting. Then today, they pretend I deprived them of details.  They have the details.  Supervisor Rogers has asked for and received details on an almost daily basis.  The purpose of today’s meeting was to continue his witch-hunt.
  • Electioneering is the act of saying anything negative or positive about a candidate on the ballot in a polling place. I am a candidate on November 6th. For some reason, the Supervisors think their public Board meeting room is immune from the legal requirements of Iowa law Chapters 39A.4 and 53.10.  I cannot control what they do, but I control what I do; hence, I did not attend their meeting today in a building designated as a polling place.

After watching the video, it is clear that Supervisors Rogers, Walker, and Oleson are masters of fake news.  For example,

  • Rogers says, “The Secretary of State said in an email to Auditor Miller that he has not done enough to address this issue”.  Fake news:  I have not received any emails from Secretary of State Paul Pate. 
  • Walker said, “It’s almost criminal” what Miller has done.  Fake news:  There is nothing criminal about the sample ballot mailer.  Its purpose was to increase voter turnout, and inform and educate voters on election law changes, and allow them time to be informed about candidates on the ballot prior to Election Day.
  • Oleson said, “Some people have been disenfranchised from the vote”.  Fake news:  No proof exists that anyone has been disenfranchised. 
  • Oleson said, “Auditor Miller is personally, I mean he has never before personally collected the mail, and he’s going in and then personally collecting the mail, and then reviewing the allocation of votes on the sample ballots form, and then shredding them”.  Fake news and AN OUTRIGHT LIE:  I don’t touch the mail nor have I viewed any voted sample ballots or official ballots.  A team of Republican and Democrat election officials shred the sample ballots mistakenly returned to our office.
  • Oleson said, I bullied and stopped March for Our Lives students from registering voters. Fake news:  Students had set up a table to register voters within the confines of a polling place, i.e., within 300’ of the NewBo City Market satellite voting on 10/13/2018.  State law prohibits electioneering within 300’ and; unfortunately, someone told the students it was permissible to display photos of the Republican and Democratic candidates on the November 6th ballot along with information on those candidates.  Fortunately, no one who cared about the unfairness of this situation contacted my office to complain about the lack of Libertarian and other third-party candidates missing from the display photos and information.  I advised the students that they needed to display all of the candidates on the ballot or none of the candidates on the ballot.  The students rolled up the tablecloth and removed the entire display.  I told them, “I appreciated their efforts, but they needed to be fair to all candidates”; and they were not being fair.  Reminder:  Iowa ballots contain three major parties. 
  • Oleson said, “You are allowed to have forums within voting places”. Fake news from a fake lawyer:  The purpose of candidate forums is for candidates to answer questions and give their positions on issues.  As such, the candidates attending those forums are advocating for themselves or against their opponents – that is electioneering. 
  • Rogers said, no one has seen the letter sent to the voters who mistakenly returned their sample ballots. Fake news:  The letter was provided to Noah Tabor, Esq. – Voter Protection Director, Campaign for Iowa (Democratic Party), and to Deputy Iowa Secretary of State Ken Kline on 10/2/2018.
  • Rogers said, if we directed staff not to answer him, there would be a big stink.  Fake news:  Actually, the Board did direct its staff not to answer my questions regarding the Harris Building.  No stink – no news story. 
  • Walker said, “The Auditor had instructed the staff member to tell me to leave because of electioneering”. Fake news:  I never talked to my staff member about Stacey Walker being in the Library.  My staff member knows the law and the law states:  Loitering by candidates and others is prohibited in a polling place and the Cedar Rapids Public Library was a polling place.  Supervisor Walker appears to believe he is above the law.
  • Walker said, “The Commissioner of Elections is waltzing around this community acting as if he has the right to arrest people” and “telling citizens where they can and cannot be.”  Fake news:  I do not have the right to arrest anyone – that is law enforcement’s job.  I do not tell anyone where they can or cannot be.  I inform people what the law is and they decide what they should do.  The NAACP decided to relocate after being informed of the law.  In fact, Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg called me about the NAACP forum to ask if it complied with the law.  I told him that the NAACP had already decided to move.  

The Board spent about 22 minutes of their 26 minute meeting discussing the sample ballot mailing.  Imagine how long the meeting would have been if I had attended?

If I had attended the meeting, I have no doubt the meeting would have crossed the line from fact-finding to character assassination in seconds.  Even in my absence, my behavior was referred to as being “criminal” (Walker) and I was guilty of “malfeasance” (Oleson).  Those are not kind words to say about someone – that is electioneering.

Today’s meeting was a kangaroo court with Supervisor Rogers presiding, and Supervisors Walker and Oleson taking their turns at me.

The biggest disappointment is the ease with which Rogers, Walker, and Oleson spread fake news or outright lies, and this is but one 26 minute meeting.  Unfortunately, this is not the first time nor the last time they will spread fake news.

Thirteen days and counting.  Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Response to Iowa Democratic Party and Secretary of State on 10/2/2018 re sample ballot mailer

October 24, 2018

In response to inquiries about the letter we have been sending to those voters who mistakenly returned their sample ballots to our office, I am providing the emails and attachments sent to the Iowa Democratic Party and the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office on 10/2/2018. For your information – Joel D. Miller – Linn County

From: Miller, Joel
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2018 6:08 PM
To: Ken Kline, [SOS] <Ken.Kline@sos.iowa.gov>
Cc: Stonawski, Rebecca <Rebecca.Stonawski@linncounty.org>
Subject: Fwd: Response to Inquiry re: Mailer from Campaign for Iowa

Ken,

I received your email re our mailer with sample ballot.

This morning, we responded to the Iowa Democratic Party with the email below including the attachments. In addition, we issued a press release last Friday and collaborated on The Gazette news story today.

Please let me know if you think there is something more my office needs to do regarding this matter.

Regards,

Joel

From: Stonawski, Rebecca
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2018 12:53 PM
To: ntabor
Cc: Miller, Joel <Joel.Miller>
Subject: Response to Inquiry re: Mailer from Campaign for Iowa

Mr. Tabor,

Thank you for your call this morning. Please find the attached documents as requested.

Sincerely,

REBECCA STONAWSKI
Deputy Commissioner of Elections

Tabor Letter.docx

Sample Ballot returned voted.docx

Letter Mockup 20180906 EPL.pdf

Top secret: How many of our deceased were cremated?

January 30, 2018

How many cremation permits were signed by the Linn County Medical Examiner (ME) from 1/1/2017 – 12/31/2017? According to not one, but two assistant county attorneys, I have no legal remedy to find out.

Forget about Iowa’s Open Records laws (Code of Iowa Chapter 22) – medical examiner records are confidential public records. And forget about my power to audit – Code of Iowa section 331.502(41) – the fees the medical examiner receives for signing cremation permits have never been deposited into a county fund or account so there is no county fund or account to audit. This reminds of that greasy pig contest my 4-H club held in the 70s.

Earlier this month, I blogged about How much do cremation permits cost taxpayers? I wanted to know how much revenue is generated by the ME for signing cremation permits since the County’s taxpayers are ultimately paying this death tax. It seemed like a simple question. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors had little interest in knowing the answer.

I did not let it go.

Last week, I sent an open records request to our medical examiner – see attached. Today, I received a reply from an assistant county attorney – see attached. And now that I have reviewed a cremation permit form, I realize I don’t need and I don’t want all of the data on the form. But the ME could redact everything on the form except for the name of the decedent and a date, and I could count the number of signed permits to determine the fees he earned. Or at the very least, the ME could give me a notarized statement as to the number of cremation permits he signed in 2017.

Or the Board of Supervisors could order the ME to disclose the number of cremation permits he signed … or threaten to cancel his contract if he didn’t disclose the numbers. What are the odds of that happening?

So are the taxpayers of Linn County paying their ME $30K, $70K, or $100K per year for him to sign cremation permits? How many Linn County residents are being cremated per year? The answers to those questions are top secret until someone in a position of power asks them … and discloses the facts. And that’s not me. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Response from assistant county attorney on 1-26-2018 re Public records request for copies of signed cremation permits.pdf

Public records request to Dr Linder – ME dated 1-23-2018.pdf

News Release: Auditor posts voter data requestors

January 12, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 12, 2016

Contact:  Joel Miller – Linn County Auditor

(319) 892-5300     joel.miller@linncounty.org

LINN COUNTY, IA – January 12, 2016 – Today, Linn County Auditor Joel D. Miller announced that his office has posted the names of persons who have requested Linn County voter data from his office. Miller took this step after an inquiry from a constituent who directed him to news stories about voter data being exposed on the internet – see:

http://www.csoonline.com/article/3018592/security/database-configuratio

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/us/politics/voting-records-released-privacy-concerns.html?_r=0

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-california-voter-records-leaked-online-20151229-story.html

While Miller cannot control what happens to voter data once an official request for data is processed and the data is released, he hopes that past and future requestors will exercise more care in safeguarding voter data to ensure that it is only used for the purposes allowed by Iowa law as stated on the request form and NOT parked on the internet for everyone to access.

Miller said, “Buying and using voter data is legal when used in accordance with the law. Revealing the names of the buyers is also legal since this information is part of the public record. If a voter is injured in some way from his/her voter data being mishandled, then they may want to pursue legal action. To do that, the injured party needs to know who obtained the voter data. Making the names of the requestors more easily accessible seems to be a reasonable balance between the requestors and the unaware voters”.

The names of requestors going back to 2009 who have requested Linn County’s voter data are posted at http://www.linncounty.org/366/Online-Voter-Data-Request-Form.

Montgomery County, MD, was the first government entity to mandate the publishing of public record requests – see Transparent Service at http://www.governing.com/columns/tech-talk/gov-transparent-public-records-requests.html   ###

Chapter 22 – Your right to audit

October 6, 2010

Here we go again; yet another county officer says the County Auditor has no authority to audit.

Please.  Can someone – anyone – point out to me the code section in the Code of Iowa that prohibits the county auditor from auditing?  Or reviewing?  Or examining?

Did I give up my right to examine public records when I was elected county auditor?  Where is that written in the Code?

I’ll admit it.  I’m a transparency fanatic.  In fact, one of my goals is “To be the most open and transparent government office in the State of Iowa”. 

I work with some people who are not interested in providing the public with any more information than absolutely necessary.  That line of thinking tends to oppose my vision which is “Every person engaged in local government”.   How can you be engaged if you don’t have access to information?

What is an audit?  Per Webster, it’s the same as an inspection, check, checkup, examination, going-over, look-see, review, scan, scrutiny, survey, or view.

Chapter 22.2(1) says, “Every person shall have the right to examine and copy a public record and to publish or otherwise disseminate a public record or the information contained in a public record”.

Every person shall have the right to examine gives you the right and gives me the right to audit – to be an auditor.

Maybe you’ve never used your right to audit, but I am using it and I plan to continue to use it as long as I am your County Auditor.  And I would appreciate your support while I am working for you.

Sincerely yours,

Joel D. Miller

County Auditor

Top 15 owners of taxable property in CR School District

May 3, 2010

From time to time, we receive requests for the top 15 or 25 taxable property owners within a specific school district, city, or the County.  The chart below is based upon 2009 property assessments.  Feel free to compare the chart below with the one published last year.

To view the latest charts for a specific government entity, go to Tax Services.  If a link for a particular government entity does not exist, then no chart has been requested in the last year. (more…)

Transparency continued

February 28, 2009

Sometimes you don’t ask the right question.  I think that happened on my earlier post about transparency.

My earlier poll may have presumed that all local governments were transparent and it’s possible that a large number of potential poll takers might have skipped the poll because of that presumption.

This new poll comes on the heels of statements made at yesterday’s (2/27/2009) Condition of the City address.  The Mayor said the City of Cedar Rapids is more transparent than ever.  While that statement may be true, the real standard for transparency likely resides in each individual’s experience with how much time and expense it takes for a specific part of government to deliver on requests for information.  Did I get what I wanted when I wanted it?  And how much (how many trips) did it cost to get it?

Open meetings and open records laws seem to be getting some attention in the Legislature.  If you have an opinion on them, you may want to contact your legislators.  In the meantime, please take a moment and vote in my poll.

Transparency: Walking the Talk

February 12, 2009

One of the words frequently batted around in discussions about government is the word “transparency”.  Wikipedia defines transparency as implying openness, communication, and accountability

 

One of my on-going goals has been to walk the talk when it comes to transparency in my office.  For example, since taking office on February 20, 2007, we have added or updated 388 of the 532 documents posted on the Auditor’s portion of Linn County’s web site.  We have posted Election Results, GIS Data Accounts Payable information, Flood Related ContractsMinutes of Board of Supervisors meetings, and many other documents.  (Note:  We provide GazetteOnline with the salaries paid to County employees.)

I’m open to publishing any and all public records in the custody of my office that are not confidential public records (overall, we possess very few confidential records).  The gating factor to publishing more records is time and resources. 

I don’t want to publish everything because some of the data is likely of little interest to the public.  On the other hand, if you notice something missing that would be of interest to you and maybe others, please contact me so I can consider publishing it.  As a matter of law, all of our public records are available in our office for your in-person inspection at anytime during normal office hours and outside of office hours by appointment.

While transparency in government is important at all times, it’s going to become especially important if/when federal and state dollars start to flow into our county.  You/we need to know where the dollars are coming from and to whom they are going to.  Transparency means you can clearly see what happened.  It does not mean you agree with what happened.

I’m doing my part to make Linn County government as transparent as possible.  I could use an extra set of eyes once in a while to look things over and ask questions.  Please contact me if you have any questions.


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