Several Anaheim employees have been in a state of alarm in recent days as they have witnessed Community Preservation Manager Sandra Sagert shredding large volumes of documents.
City officials, however, insist the shredding is legal.
One source said maintenance workers Wednesday morning hauled out six 5-gallon trash bags filled with shredded documents from the fifth floor of City Hall. "She's [Sagert] been on a shredding spree since last Friday," the source said.
The heightened concern comes in the wake of revelations, first published by Voice of OC, that Sagert and Hannah Jones, a manager in the city's Planning Department, sent directives to employees ordering them to destroy emails and other correspondence.
The memos have alarmed open-government advocates and triggered calls for an investigation by the district attorney's office. The city is reviewing its records policy for compliance with state and federal laws, and the issue will be on the Anaheim City Council agenda later this month.
City officials say documents shredded by Sagert are not emails or other communications but business license forms, which are exempt from public disclosure. The documents are scanned electronically and then destroyed as "part of the business license renewal process," wrote spokeswoman Ruth Ruiz in an email to Voice of OC.
The shredding drew questions from Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware and an expert on state records laws. He questioned why a clerical task was being carried out by a department manager.
"Shredding that is legitimate is a clerical function: 'Take these three boxes of records, please shred them.' Instead here it's being done at the managerial level or at least the supervisory level," Fancke said.
Ruiz responded that the shredding is an ordinary "team effort."
Interim City Manager Bob Wingenroth said he has not specifically inquired about the timing and volume of Sagert's shredding, but it is his understanding that there is usually no specific schedule for destroying records.
"I can tell you from working in the Finance Department, we do it when we can get to it," Wingenroth said.
When asked if the city would place a moratorium on records destruction until the issue is settled, Wingenroth replied, "point well taken."
"I will certainly consider it," Wingenroth said.
— ADAM ELMAHREK