Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: So if the Independent Review Committee the city created to look into the water outage has access to all the sensitive city water data and maps, did the city run security background checks on the nine committee members to make sure they are not homeland security risks? Did they run any kind of background checks? If they’re going to be able to see secret information about where city lines run and where key infrastructure is, and the public can’t attend the meetings because of this, it seems like the committee members should’ve been vetted for security.
My answer: There are no background checks, but committee members are blindfolded, driven around the city for hours on end before meetings, and then have to navigate the Eliada Homes corn maze, which leads to one of the remaining downtown tunnels between 1920s speakeasies and ultimately City Hall. But they have no idea where they are, and then after the meeting they’re hit with “Men In Black” type memory erasers.
Real answer: No background checks here, folks.
“City of Asheville staff reviewed the credentials of the Independent Review Committee applicants,” City of Asheville spokesperson Kim Miller said via email. “Applicants were people either self-identified, staff-identified, or subject matter experts put forward at the suggestion of community members.”
The committee members include water experts John McLaughlin, Ted Tyree and Michael Holcombe, communications experts Mike McGill and Rob Brisley, emergency management expert Dennis Fagnant, residential water customers Michele Ashley and Kim “Dirt” Murphy, and business water customer Carolyn Roy.
McLaughlin, a professional engineer, is the director of internal development in the Charlotte office of Highfill Infrastructure Engineering, which works in water, wastewater and stormwater. Tyree is an engineer at the Knoxville Utilities Board in Tennessee, according to his LinkedIn profile. Holcombe previously served as director of Asheville’s Water Resources Department.
The committee has met already, and the city offered an update on its activity at the March 28 City Council meeting. May 30 is the projected date for the committee’s final report to council.
“While staff did not carry out what would be considered a formal background check, staff reviewed the professional credentials of applicants, as well as scheduling direct conversations with most of them,” Miller said. “Each member seated came with excellent credentials or recommendations.”
While I joked about the memory eraser, the city is requiring committee members to zip it. Yes, non-disclosure agreements are in play here.
“In addition, each member has executed a non-disclosure agreement to provide the city with additional protections for sensitive information,” Miller said. “The NDA’s impose personal legal restrictions upon each member in the case of any unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. Those measures were put in place to ensure the Independent Review Committee could call for and view critical infrastructure documents they feel necessary to carry out their independent assessment and recommendations.”
Question: With all the open drug use happening in public these days, I have to ask: What, if anything, might happen should I, a long-time taxpayer and (mostly) law-abiding citizen, be spotted drinking a locally crafted brewski or cider on a bench in downtown Asheville? Would it be allowed, frowned upon, strongly discouraged? It sure was hot the other day, so I’ll be grateful for your answer, man.
My answer: Just tuck your finely crafted beverage into a brown paper bag, and voila! Problem solved! Brown paper bags have never gone out of style for a reason, my friend.
Real answer: I suspect “strongly discouraged” would probably be a pretty good bet in this situation, although the police issued only a very official answer.
APD spokeswoman Samantha Booth said it’s a violation of chapter 11, section 11-11 of the City of Asheville ordinance that prohibits the consumption and possession of malt beverages on public streets or city property. A violation is a misdemeanor.
On occasion, exceptions to the “open container” rules are made for festivals or other special events. But day to day, you can’t knock down alcoholic beverages in public here.
As most of us know, the Asheville Police Department, which is currently operating at about 60 percent of full staffing, suspended responses to a variety of crimes in June 2021. These range from theft from a vehicle where there is no suspect information and non-life threatening harassing phone calls to simple assaults reported after they have occurred.
So, I suspect if you are quaffing a cold one on the sidewalk, it’s not going to be a top-priority, emergency response. But should an officer be in the vicinity, they’re unlikely just to look the other way, either.
On a side note on the drug usage, APD Capt. Mike Lamb told me while I was reporting for our downtown series that once a person has ingested a drug, officers cannot charge them with possession for the drug being in their system. In other words, you have to catch them with the drug on their person, not in their person.
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-337-0941.
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) can run the gambit from identifying very specific information that must be withheld to virtually anything discussed or reviewed by the signing party.
We might assume that the NDA’s for the 3 water system experts will only specify that the design and specific location of mission-critical infrastructure shall not be disclosed. Yet it is plausible, perhaps even likely that they will be prevented from discussing anything ouside of their formal report should questions from the public arise.
It would be reasonable for the city to release to the public copies of the acutal NDA’s of the Independent Review Team to discern exactly what the City is restricting in those documents.
Comments are closed.